The Timmins Rock iced the youngest lineup in the NOJHL during the 2018-19 campaign, with 16 year olds Keegan McMullen, Owen Shier and Carson Bullington playing a big role in the team’s success.
That youthful approach was enhanced by the addition of 15-year-old affiliate player Rhys Chiddenton to the roster late in the season and throughout an impressive playoff run that saw the Rock bow out to the eventual NOJHL champion Hearst Lumberjacks in the East Division semi-finals.
With the new Canadian Junior Hockey League year having arrived on June 1, teams like the Rock are now free to begin building their rosters for the 2019-20 campaign.
And it should come as no surprise that the first two players inked by the Rock are a pair of 16-year-old forwards.
After touring the McIntyre Arena and Timmins on May 27 — two days prior to his 16th birthday — Cameron Kosurko was quick to ink a Junior ‘A’ card with the Rock soon after the new CJHL year opened on Saturday.
Also joining the Rock’s forward ranks on a full-time basis is Chiddenton, who had an impressive run in the maroon, gold and white late in the regular season and in the 2019 playoffs.
Kosurko, an Uxbridge, Ont., native, comes to the Rock by way of the Central Ontario Wolves Minor Midget ‘AAA’ squad where he put up some solid numbers (36, 12-7-19, 10) during the 2018-19 campaign.
He also saw action limited action with the Central Ontario Major Midget Wolves (2, 0-0-0, 0).
Drafted by the Sudbury Wolves 197th overall in the 10th round of the 2019, OHL Priority Selection, Kosurko came to the attention of the Rock during a prospect camp following the draft.
“I went down to the camp a couple of weekends ago and Cameron’s speed and skill really stood out for us,” said Rock general manager Kevin Peever.
“We like to play a high-tempo game and watching him I knew he would fit in right away.”
The general manager noted the success McMullen, Shier, Burlington and Chiddenton had in the league in 2018-19 made signing Kosurko a no-brainer.
“Having watched those players before hand and knowing the style of play Beersy (coach Corey Beer) made it easier for us to recruit those kind of players,” Peever said.
“We had great success with all of them last year and it just shows age is just a number.”
The Rock have also had a great deal of success recruiting players from the Central Ontario Wolves program in the past.
“We have done really well recruiting players from that whole region,” Peever said.
“We also know his advisor very well. He has been watching him and working with him for the last few years.
“He had nothing but great things to say about him and when I saw him at the Wolves camp there was no question that we would love to entertain bringing him up to Timmins.”
It remains to be seen just where Kosurko will fit into the Rock lineup, but it will most likely be in an offensive role.
“That is not really for me to say,” Peever said.
“The work has to be done by Cameron. With what I have seen, I would predict him to be high up in our lineup with his speed and skill, but he is the one who has to put the time and work in to develop his game.
“There is a lot of potential and he is nowhere near his ceiling from what I have seen. I definitely see him being an impact player.”
Listed at 5-9 and 145 pounds, Kosurko is similar in stature to Chiddenton (5-9, 141 pounds), but he shoots right while the Campbellville, Ont., native shoots left.
“I had a lot of fun playing for the Wolves last year, but things didn’t work out for our team,” Kosurko said.
The forward knows Shier, who hails from nearby Sunderland, and they have played together before, although he is a year younger than the defender.
“He is a year older, but I have AP’d with teams he has played for and I know him personally,” Kosurko said.
“I also know (Rock forward) Darcy Haupt, who is from near Uxbridge.”
The forward knows it won’t be easy to make the jump from Minor Midget ‘AAA’ to Junior ‘A’ but he is confident in his abilities.
“I will be playing against men and I will have to adjust to the speed and the physicality,” Kosurko said.
“I am going to have to be able to think faster and move faster.”
Given his physical dimensions, the 16 year old acknowledge speed and skill — not size and grit — are the key components of his game.
“I use my speed to get out of tight spaces and make plays,” Kosurko said.
During his visit to the McIntyre Arena, the Uxbridge native was accompanied by a pair of Rock veterans — forwards Riley Robitaille and Riley Brousseau.
Asked if he felt any pressure to change his first name so he could be part of an all-Riley line, Kosurko just chuckled.
“That would be funny,” he said.
Standing nearby, his mother did not see the humour in the suggestion, however.
It was the first visit to Timmins for Kosurko and his family.
“I really didn’t have any expectations,” he said.
“I knew it was a little further up North and there are moose and stuff, but I like what I have seen so far.”
Like most young hockey players, Kosurko watched a lot of NHL games while he was growing up and he has tried to pattern his game after a couple of stars.
“I would say Patrick Kane, but since has come into the league I would say more so Mitch Marner,” he said.
Lest that answer leave Rock fans wondering if he cheers for the Chicago Blackhawks or the Toronto Maple Leafs, he states emphatically it’s the latter.
Speed and skill aside, that should put him in Beer’s good books right off the start.
Kosurko has yet to meet the Rock coach, but he is looking forward to getting to know him during the NOJHL team’s second-annual prospect camp in Oshawa June 8-9.
Chiddenton spent the bulk of the 2018-19 season with the Mississauga Reps Minor Midget ‘AAA’ squad (48, 17-10-27, 34) in the GTMMHL.
After his Minor Midget ‘AAA’ season was complete, he joined the Rock (2, 2-1-3, 0) as an affiliate player.
Despite playing limited minutes, he put up some impressive numbers (6, 2-0-2, 0) in the playoffs, as well.
NOJHL NOTES — The Rock have announced that graduating forward Matt Capisciolto has committed to attending Alburtus Magnus College and playing for the NCAA III Falcons … Tickets for the Timmins Rock’s third-annual NHL fundraiser will go on sale Friday. Guests of honour for the event to be held at the Porcupine Dante Club on Monday, June 24, are former NHL star Doug Gilmour and TSN sportscaster Rod Black. Tickets, at a cost of $75, will be available at KIA of Timmins and the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre.