By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock roster received an injection of size and strength on Friday with the addition of a pair of players.
Coach and general manager Paul Gagne confirmed the Rock have inked defenceman Grant McClellan who played for Trenton Trojans, of the USHS, last season and that the team has re-signed forward Cole Gilligan.
McClellan, who captained the Trojans during his senior year in 2015-16, was also the captain of the Michigan school’s football team and also played varsity baseball.
“He’s a really good athlete,” Gagne said.
“A friend of one of our scouts in the Michigan area goes to a few of these showcases every year and Grant’s name came up and he had a great evaluation.
“Everything about him is above average, his skating, his passing, his shooting, his aggressiveness, his compete level.”
McClellan’s ability to excel in other sports makes him even more valuable as a hockey player in Gagne’s books.
“First of all, to play that many sports, you know he is a good athlete,” he said.
“Second, he was not only captain of his hockey team, but also his football team, so that tells me he has a lot of leadership qualities, as well.”
McClellan was chosen as All-State Division 2 Second Team All-Star during his senior year at Trenton High School.
“We know he is a smart kid and he has a lot of upside,” he said.
“Hopefully, he will turn out to be a nice player for us.”
His offensive production with the Trojans (28, 5-17-22, 26) would suggest McClellan is much more than just a stay-at-home defenceman.
“Those stats aren’t bad, but it we are more impressed with the fact that he is reliable and coachable,” Gagne said.
Gagne has not had an opportunity to see his new 6-0, 220-pound blue-line play yet, but he is looking forward to seeing him on the ice when the Rock open training camp at the McIntyre Arena on Monday, Aug. 22.
At 6-4 and 182 pounds, Gilligan (44, 6-6-12, 6) was one of the biggest players on the Rock roster during the team’s first year back in Timmins.
“Cole is a kid who hardly made any mistakes for us last year,” Gagne said.
“He did everything we asked for him to do out there.”
Despite his impressive size, or perhaps because of it, Gilligan had a bit of a challenge keeping up with some of his speedier teammates in 2015-16.
“He just needed to work on his speed a little bit more, because we had a team that had a lot of speed,” Gagne said.
“Every time he played, he did his job and he made things happen.”
Gilligan will be looking to build upon the initial success he had in a Rock uniform last season.
“This summer, he has been working out hard and he has put on a little bit of weight,” Gagne said.
“He has also been working on his foot speed. He needs to work on his first three or four steps. Once he got going last year, there was no issue, but it took him a while to get out of neutral. He needs to be able to beat the opposition to the puck.”
For the most part, Gilligan played on the Rock’s third and fourth lines, focusing mainly on checking and killing penalties.
“Last year, he didn’t get too many good offensive opportunities, but hopefully this year he will be able to move up the ladder a little bit,” Gagne said.
“He was a good goal scorer. He had some really good numbers when he played Midget ‘AAA.’”
Gilligan’s wide wingspan and his long reach are an asset on both the offensive and defensive sides of the puck.
“He has a lot of character,” Gagne said.
“He was put into a role and he accepted it. This year, we are going to ask a little bit more from him offensively.”
Off the ice, Gilligan was one of the quietest players on the Rock roster last season.
“The guys in our room really liked him a lot,” Gagne said.
Gilligan, who spent part of the 2014-15 campaign with the Blind River Beavers (4, 0-0-0, 0) and the Mattawa Blackhawks (7, 1-0-1, 0), was acquired by the Rock prior to the team’s tryout camp last summer.
NOJHL NOTES — The Kirkland Lake Gold Miners have traded the Junior ‘A’ rights of goaltender Marc Audet, to the Surrey Eagles, of the BCHL, in exchange for 18-year-old right winger Gunnar Wegleitner. Both players have seen time in Major Junior, Audet with Acadie-Bathurst, of the QMJHL, and Wegleitner, with the Everett Silvertips, of the WHL … The Cochrane Crunch have traded goalie Allan Menary to the Stayner Siskins, of the GMOJHL … Rock fans who have not yet done so, can purchase their season tickets or Legacy Memberships by visiting timminsrock.com … The Rock are looking for billet families for the 2016-17 season. Anyone interested in getting more information should email firstname.lastname@example.org … The Rock will hold their inaugural golf tournament at Spruce Needles Golf Club on Thursday, Aug. 18. Visit timminsrock.com or email email@example.com for more information.