Goalie Nicholas Dicks is welcomed to the Timmins Rock by coach Corey Beer following the completion of the NOJHL squad’s prospect camp in Oshawa. Dicks a 2000-birth-year puck stopper, who spent the 2017-18 campaign with the GTHL’s Markham Majors, will be looking to push incumbent Tyler Masternak for playing time this season. SUBMITTED PHOTO
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock’s “official” roster has now grown to 16 players following the addition of a trio of players — two of whom took part in the NOJHL squad’s prospect comp in Oshawa.
Nicholas Dicks, a 2000-birth-year puck stopper who spent the 2017-18 campaign with the GTHL’s Markham Majors, is the first goalie to be inked for the coming year, although both 2000-birth-year netminder Tyler Masternak and his 1998-birth-year creasemate Eric Jackson are eligible to return.
The team has also signed 2000-birth-year forward Darcy Haupt and 2002-birth-year blue-liner Owen Shier.
Rock coach Corey Beer is quite familiar with Dicks, who took part in the prospect camp in Oshawa.
“Nick actually played for two of my former players, Ryan Logan and Brad McAllister, who coached the Markham Majors Midget ‘AAA’ team,” he said.
“Nick comes from there and he is a goalie who stands pretty tall and he is very sound fundamentally.
“I will be the first one to say I am not great at breaking down goaltenders, but he looked great during the camp.
“He is a guy we were kind of tracking and wanted to bring to camp and see how he would do.
“Fortunately for us, we were able to get a good look at him against some good competition.
“We feel strongly he can come in and back up Tyler Masternak and push him so we have a 1A and 1B situation.
“For Nick, it will be all about when his opportunity arises to make sure he jumps on it.”
Dicks was pleased with the way things went at the prospect camp and he is looking forward to continuing his career in a Rock uniform.
“Things went really well for me during the prospect camp,” he said.
“I think I did pretty well and I thought a lot of the other boys also did pretty well. It was good for us to get to meet each other for the first time.”
Being a goaltender, Dicks’ prime objective during the prospect camp was stopping the puck.
“During the games we played, I was just trying to keep my team in it,” he said.
“I just took things shot by shot and shift by shift, played my game and tried to do my best out there.”
Like most players making the jump from Midget ‘AAA’ hockey to the NOJHL, Dicks expects to face stiffer competition in 2018-19.
“Playing with Markham last year, I had a really good development year,” he said.
“Playing in the NOJHL this year, I know I will have to make some adjustments, but I think the experience I gained last year will help me to ease into things.
“I faced a lot of really skilled players last year, but I know there are a lot really skilled players in the NOJHL, as well.”
Dicks describes himself as a butterfly goalie who tries to stay calm in the net.
“I try not to stray too far out of position,” he said.
“I try to pattern my game after (Montreal Canadiens goalie) Carey Price. He is always calm in his net and you don’t see him venture too far away from his crease. He always knows where he is out there and he can always get back into position quickly.
“He is definitely one of the top goalies in the NHL. It’s crazy to see much of an impact he makes and how good he actually is.”
At 6-1, Dicks — who, like most goalies, catches with his left hand — fits the prototypical size of most modern goalies, although at 160 pounds, he has plenty of room to fill out.
Like most of his new teammates, Dicks is looking forward to the Rock’s annual golf tournament — and the chance to rub elbows with three former NHL stars — two days prior to the start of the NOJHL squad’s training camp in August.
“I like to think I am not too bad a golfer,” he said.
Being a goalie, it is no surprise the one former NHL star Dicks is really looking forward to getting a chance to meet is New York Islanders great Billy Smith, who revolutionized the position while helping his team win four-straight Stanley Cups.
“I am super excited to be able to pick his brain and see how he feels the game has changed since he was playing in the NHL,” Dicks said.
“It will be really great to get to know his game and his style a little bit better. It is great to get a chance to learn from somebody like him.”
Given the impressive run Masternak had in the Rock net last season and especially during the team’s impressive playoff run, Dicks knows he will have to be patient and make the most of his time in the crease when it comes.
“I think the fact we are both the same age will help,” he said.
“We will be able to push each other and have a friendly competition. I am confident we can have a good relationship on and off the ice.”
While Dicks hasn’t met Masternak yet, he hopes to touch base with him prior to the start of team’s training camp.
He has, however, played with a couple of his other new teammates in recent seasons.
“I played with Josh Dickson and Darcy Haupt back in peewee when we were with the Central Ontario Wolves,” he said.
“That was probably one of the most enjoyable years I have had playing hockey. It was one of the closest teams I have played on. Hopefully, we can get that same kind of gel going again with the Rock this year.”
Haupt (36, 14-13-27, 4), who spent the 2017-18 campaign with the ETAHL’s Central Ontario Wolves, was not one of the original seven players the Rock signed immediately following the prospect camp in Oshawa, but the coaching staff liked what they saw and added him to the mix shortly thereafter.
“Darcy is a little bit bigger and a right-hand shot, but he is almost an (former Rock forward) Evan Kentish-Stack type of player,” Beer said.
“He maybe goes a bit more unnoticed than the type of guy who scores a bunch of goals and has the flash and dash, especially during a prospect camp.
“Darcy is a little more hard working, really good on the forecheck, he blocks shots and is really good in his own zone defensively.
“He is going to be a guy who can play anywhere in the lineup. He can complement a top line and be that hard-working guy who can get his linemates the puck or he can play down in the lineup and be able to shut guys down.
“He is definitely a guy who can score goals, too. He was underrated for his offence, but all of his former coaches absolutely rave about him.
“At the prospect camp, he didn’t stand out as much as we thought he might have, but after doing further investigating with the backing of his coaches, Brad Bricknell and Claire Cornish, who were both very bullish on him, we signed him.
“You trust good hockey people in this game and Brad and Claire are two of the best.
“We think we have added a very responsible two-way player who is really going to help our lineup.”
Even though he was not signed right after the prospect camp, Haupt felt things went pretty well during the two-day event.
“I just went out there and tried to work hard and show what I can do,” he said.
“I knew a couple of the guys out on the ice with us, like Josh Dickson. He is one of my buddies and we played together with the Wolves a while back. I also played with Nicholas Dicks, the goalie, when I was young, as well.”
Haupt also knows Josh Anderson, who spent part of the 2017-18 season with the Rock before graduating to the Rimouski Oceanic, of the QMJHL.
“I heard from both Josh and his dad (Bob Anderson) that Timmins is a great place to play hockey,” he said.
“I know Tyler Masternak, as well, he also said it is a great place to play. So, I thought what better place to continue my hockey career than Timmins.”
Haupt describes himself as a 200-foot player, who is equally as good on both sides of the puck.
“Growing up, I tried to pattern my game after (Boston Bruins forward) Patrice Bergeron,” he said.
“He is a good two-way centre who works really hard, both offensively and defensively.
“Also, when I was a kid I was really fond of Darcy Tucker.”
At 5-9 and 174 pounds, Haupt is even smaller than the former NHL star who played for both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens among his four NHL stops.
Like most of his new teammates, Haupt will be spending plenty of time in the gym this summer in hopes of adding few pounds of muscle to his frame.
“I am training three times a week with a personal trainer,” he said.
“I am also going to be doing some power skating for my legs. I have to stay on the ice and stay active.”
Haupt knows there will be a learning curve as he makes the jump to Junior ‘A’ hockey this season.
“I am going to be playing against older guys,” he said.
“They are probably going to be trying to hit me pretty hard out there, so I am going to have to keep my head up, get stronger and be able to compete.”
Like Dicks, Haupt is looking forward to the Rock’s annual golf tournament and getting a chance to meet Smith and fellow former NHLers Kevin Stevens and Shayne Corson.
“My golf game is pretty good,” he said.
“It is going to be pretty awesome to get the chance to meet three former NHL players.”
Since Haupt is a life-long Maple Leafs fan, he is really looking forward to getting the chance to meet Corson.
Shier (36, 6-15-21, 26) spent the 2017-18 season with the Central Ontario Wolves Minor Midget ‘AAA’ squad, of the ETAMMHL, and also got into a game with the Lindsay Muskies, of the OJHL.
The 6-1, 185-pound right-hand shooting blue-liner from Sunderland, Ont., was an eighth-round selection, 159th overall, of the Windsor Spitfires in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection.
“Owen is a very high end 2002-birth-year blue-liner and we are extremely excited to get him in the mix,” Beer said.
“He is a smooth-skating defenceman and he is a guy who can step in and even at a young age quarterback a power play.
“We feel very fortunate to be able to get a player with his type of skill into our program. He is a guy who drew some OJHL interest, but our pitch to get him up North was pretty good.
“Even if we only have a year or two of him in our program, I think he is going to do some special things for us and be that dynamic puck-moving defenceman that every team is after.
“The fact he is a right-handed shot really helps, too.”
Despite his young age, the coach envisions Shier being able to play on one of the Rock’s Top 2 defensive pairings this season.
“Owen is definitely a player who is going to be a Top 4 guy,” Beer said.
“He is a guy who is really going to be able to change the game with the way he skates and handles the puck.
“It is one of those things where you kind of throw out the birth certificate. We know the kind of skill set he has and I am confident he is going to be a tremendous addition to our back end. He is going to be a game changer for us back there.”
Growing up, Shier was a big fan of Chicago Blackhawks blue-liner Brent Seabrook, but his favourite player right now is defenceman Victor Hedman, who plays for his favourite NHL team, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He knows making the jump to the NOJHL will present a new challenge.
“I played for the Central Ontario Wolves for seven years and I was captain of my team for the past four years,” he said.
“I really enjoyed playing there and I made a lot of life-long friends.
“For me, I think the biggest thing about moving to Junior ‘A’ is going to be the physical side of the game. I am going to have to get stronger and faster because I will be playing against men.
“I will have to buckle down and not be afraid to take a hit to make a play. There will be some bumps and bruises along the way, but that’s all part of the game.”
During the summer, Shier will be training five days a week — hitting the gym three days a week and doing dry-land training the other two days.
“I am looking to get strong, more powerful, more explosive and faster, as well,” he said.
Shier is familiar with a couple of his new Rock teammates.
“Darcy Haupt played for the Central Ontario Wolves midgets and I APed (signed as an affiliate player) with them last year,” he said.
“So, I know him a little bit. I also know Josh Dickson a little bit because I used to play lacrosse with him.”
Shier is looking forward to playing in front of anywhere from 800 to 1,500 fans during Rock home games this season.
“That’s going to be awesome,” he said.
“The atmosphere is going to be so real.”
Shier has never been to Timmins before, but coming from a small farming community he was pleased to learn while the City with the Heart of Gold is best known for mining and forestry, agriculture is also thriving in the region.
“I live on a farm and we have about 30 cows, 10 pigs and 150 chickens,” he said.
“It’s actually pretty cool that there is agriculture up in the Timmins area, as well.”
Shier does not consider himself much of a golfer, but he is looking forward to the chance of getting to meet three former NHL players during the team’s annual tournament.
“That’s going to be neat,” he said.
“It is going to be interesting to learn the paths they took and how they got to where they got during their careers.
Shier will be one of three 16 year olds on the team in 2018-19, joining fellow blue-liner Carson Burlington and forward Keegan McMullin.