Timmins Rock forward Jordan Picard cuts in front of Gold Miners goalie Ryan Winter during the second period of Saturday night’s NOJHL game at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex. Picard, a Timmins native who was acquired from the French River Rapids in exchange for forward Donny Schultz, was held off the scoresheet as the Rock dropped a 3-1 decision to the Gold Miners. With five goals and eight assists on the season, Picard is tied for 13th place in the NOJHL scoring race. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock are hoping a swap of forwards will help kick start their struggling offence.
Having scored the third fewest goals in the NOJHL this season, the Rock have acquired 1997-birth-year Timmins native Jordan Picard from the French River Rapids in exchange for 1998-birth year Negaunee, Mich., native Donny Schultz.
On paper, the deal appears to be a steal for the Rock, as Picard (12, 5-8-13, 12) is tied for 13th place in the NOJHL scoring race, while Schultz (9, 1-1-2, 4) has struggled to get untracked to this point in the 2017-18 campaign.
“Jordan Picard is one of those players out assistant coaches Dazzer (James Daschuk) and Bizzer (Marc Bisson) know really well,” said Rock coach Corey Beer.
“They coached him a bit when he was playing minor hockey. He is a goal scorer and an offensive guy and we are looking to add a little bit of production to our lineup.
“When you add a veteran player like that, there is going to be a maturity about him. We are excited to get him in here and see what he can do for us.”
Beer had an opportunity to see what Picard can do first hand earlier this season, as the right-hand shooting forward scored a goal in the Rapids 3-1 win in Timmins on opening night and also found the back of the net during a 5-3 Rock win over French River on Sept. 30 at the McIntyre Arena.
“You always hope that when a player is coming home like this, it is going to be a recipe for success,” Beer said.
“Jordan is a very mature young man and a good hockey player. He is an honest hockey player and we expect nothing more than the kind of production he had with French River.”
Picard, who graduated from the GNML’s Timmins Majors program, broke into the NOJHL with the Iroquois Falls Eskis in 2015-16 (10, 0-2-2, 6).
He split the 2016-17 campaign between the Eskis (19, 3-4-7, 12) and the Rapids (30, 8-16-24, 15), but he really blossomed this season playing on a line with Gregory Trudeau-Paquet (12, 9-10-19, 12) and Levi Siau (12, 5-2-7, 6).
Despite that chemistry and the strong start for the Rapids this season, the 5-10, 165-pound speedy Picard is pumped to finish his Junior ‘A’ career in his hometown.
“I was ecstatic when I found out about the trade,” he said.
“I am really looking forward to getting a chance to play in front of my friends and family. The crowds at the McIntyre Arena are always insane. I have heard the coaching staff is good and I know a lot of the guys on the team.”
Picard played his final year of midget with Rock captain Wayne Mathieu, who was a linemate, as well as Stewart Parnell, Alexandre Brisson and Jared Hester.
“We all got along really well that year and I am sure we will get along really well this year,” Picard said.
“I am hoping I can bring some creativity to this hockey club, as well as some speed and a good attitude, a good work ethic.
“I love to win.”
The Rock currently find themselves in last place in the NOJHL’s East Division standings, but Picard is confident they have the talent necessary to not only make the playoffs but maybe win a championship, as well.
“That would be awesome, especially with this being my hometown,” he said.
“Looking at the roster, I think we have the guys to do it.”
Picard is hoping the offensive success he had with the Rapids at the start of the season will continue.
“Things worked out pretty well with Gregory and Levi because we are three pretty creative guys,” he said.
“We like to play in the O zone and get creative with the puck. I really enjoyed playing with those guys, but unfortunately it had to end. I think it was for the best.”
Picard enjoyed his time with the Rapids and the support the team received from the residents of French River.
“I definitely made some friends down there and I hope they do well,” he said.
“The fans down there were always there right from Day 1, even when the team was struggling.”
Naturally, Picard’s friends and family are excited about getting chance to see him play a little more often without having to make the trek down to French River.
“My family teared up,” he said.
“They were beyond happy. When I called them, they were screaming and yelling.”
Picard made his debut in a Rock uniform during Saturday night’s 3-1 loss to the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake.
He was held off the scoresheet in that contest, but that is understandable given he made the drive up from Sudbury just in time to take part in the game and has not had an opportunity to practise with his new teammates yet.
Schultz showed some flashes of offensive creativity during his time in a Rock uniform, but did not consistently put up points — a requirement for an import forward.
“Donny is a great kid and good player who worked very hard for us,” Beer said.
“He was caught in a bit of a numbers game and wasn’t going to get the offensive opportunities here that he was probably looking for.
“It will be a fresh start for him and we wish him nothing but the best. He was a good Timmins Rock player and I am sure he will be a better French River Rapid player.”
Schultz picked up an assist in his debut in a Rapids uniform as French River defeated the Blind River Beavers 5-3 on Sunday.
Picard is not the only forward the Rock have brought in, as the team attempts to produce offence on a more consistent basis without sacrificing its commitment to a defence-first system.
Connor Hoffmann (7, 2-2-4, 2) got off to a fast start, but has just one assist in his past six games, while Austin Petrie (5, 1-2-3, 0) started slow, but has shown flashes in recent games.
Kevin Kutasi (2, 0-0-0, 0), meanwhile, is better known for his physical play and checking ability.
The Rock will play two games at the NOJHL Showcase in Sudbury, taking on the Rayside-Balfour Canadians on Tuesday afternoon and the Espanola Express on Wednesday afternoon.
Their next game at the McIntyre Arena will be on Friday, Oct. 20, when they host the Hearst Lumberjacks.