Rock add agile defender

By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)

TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock have bolstered their blue-line with the addition of 1999-birth-year defenceman Shawn Sloan.

Rock general manager Kevin Peever officially announced the acquisition of Sloan from the Perth Blue Wings, of the CCHL2, in exchange for a player development fee on Friday.

“Both (Rock coach) Corey (Beer) and I started watching video of Shawn after one of my old hockey buddies became aware he was looking to make the jump to Junior ‘A’ hockey,” Peever said.

“We are very impressed with his agility and his skating. His transition and his edge work are very good.”

Sloan is by no means a polished player at this point in his development, but the Rock GM is confident he has the makings of a solid NOJHL defender.

“There are still some areas he has to work on, but we believe with him coming here and playing under Corey’s defence-first system he will turn into an excellent defenceman,” Peever said.

At 5-8 and 150 pounds — up from 5-7 and 142 pounds last season — Sloan certainly won’t be the biggest blue-liner in the NOJHL in 2017-18, but he may remind fans of a D-man the squad employed during its first year back in Timmins.

“He reminds me a lot of Andrew Castagna who played for us two years ago,” Peever said.

“He was an excellent skater, not a big guy but able to get himself out of trouble due to his ability to skate.

“Watching video of Shawn, it is very evident he plays a very similar style to Andrew.”

At 5-11, Castagna was a little taller than Sloan, but he was only two pounds heavier when he slipped on his No. 4 Rock jersey for the first time.

And if Sloan comes close to putting up the numbers Castagna (46,10-15-25, 29) did in his only season with the Rock, fans will be happy.

Sloan (45, 3-16-19, 71), a native of Cardinal, Ont., actually spent the 2016-17 campaign with the Prescott Flyers, of the CCHL2, but that team has since relocated to Cobden.

He arrived in Timmins with his family on Friday, got a tour of the McIntyre Arena and was fitted for his maroon, gold and white Rock jersey.

“We had a pretty good season at the start of last year with the Flyers, but things kind of tapered off and we didn’t make the playoffs,” Sloan said.

“I was looking for a fresh start and the opportunity looks good here in Timmins.”

Sloan had never been to Timmins before arriving to sign his paperwork on Friday, but knows forward Jacob Shankar, who played for the Rock last season.

“I grew up playing hockey with him and he had a really good experience here last season,” Sloan said.

The Rock dealt Shankar to the Rockland Nationals, of the CCHL, in exchange for blue-liner James Redmond and forward MacKenzie Lockyer earlier this off season.

Sloan is what many people would consider a typical two-way defender.

“I like to rush the puck, but I can also sit back,” he said.

“I like to take the body a fair bit despite my size and that benefits me, as well.”

Indeed, the 71 penalty minutes Sloan accumulated in 2016-17 would suggest he does not shy away from the rough stuff.

Being from Cardinal, Ont., Sloan is a big Ottawa Senators fan, but Erik Karlsson is not the NHL defenceman he patterns his game after.

“I like Ryan Ellis from Nashville,” he said.

“He is not a really big guy, but he plays the game well and gets the job done.”

Once Sloan’s Junior ‘A’ days are done, he is hoping to be able to play university or college hockey, either in the United States or Canada.

“I am hoping to eventually get an education from playing hockey,” he said.

“I am hoping to take something to do with health and fitness.”

Sloan knows there will be some adjustments as he prepares to make the jump to the NOJHL.

“I know I am going to have to hit the gym hard this summer and try to get some on-ice work done, as well,” he said.

“I want to be mentally and physically ready to go when camp opens so I can get ready for the season.”

Sloan acknowledges being a good skater, with speed, is a definite asset.

“When you are not very big, being fast is key,” he said.

The right-handed shooting defender does not anticipate any issues keeping the crease in front of goalies Brendan Bishop and Jeff Veitch clear of opposing forwards.

“You just have to play them low, be hard on your stick and never give up,” Sloan said.

The addition of Sloan gives the Rock six defencemen on their active roster, with Jarred Hester, Lucas Dolanjski and Redmond locked up, while Grant McClellan and James Watier have not officially indicated if they will be returning to the team for the 2017-18 campaign.

“We are looking at bringing in a few more young guys to help build the program, not just for next year but years to come, as well,” Peever said.

As it currently sits, the Rock blue-line does not have a lot of size, but Peever is not too concerned about that fact.

“Under Corey’s program, everybody will be thinking defence first and getting in lanes to block shots,” he said.

“It is nice to have some larger defencemen, but I don’t think it is a requirement like it was many years ago. There is much more speed involved in the game rather that hitting.

“We would like to get another 6-0 or larger defenceman, but we are more concerned with getting defencemen who have good first-pass instincts, good foot speed and an ability to jump up into the play.

NOJHL NOTES — The Hearst Lumberjacks have acquired 1999-birth-year forward Holden Cochrane (34, 8-6-14, 20) and 1998-birth-year blue-liner Gavin Yee (14, 4-7-11, 6) from the Peninsula Panthers, of the VIJHL. The Lumberjacks have also acquired 1998-birth-year forward Case Moioffer (32, 10-9-19, 6) from the Iowa Wild, of the T1EHL … The Kirkland Lake Gold Miners continue to add players in preparation for the start of training camp on Aug. 21. The team has added forward Matthew Reynolds from the Northern Cyclones, of the EHL U19, and 1999-birth-year forward Joe Whittet (27, 17-15-32, 81) from the North Bay Trappers, of the GNML, as well as 1997-birth-year blue-liner Troy Murray (12, 0-2-2, 14) from the Newmarket Hurricanes, of the OJHL … The Soo Thunderbirds have hired John Parco as their new coach following the departure of Jordan Smith to the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves earlier this week. Parco has experience both as a player and a coach in Italy.