The Timmins Rock have acquired 2000-birth-year defenceman Luka Bolduc from the Saint-Lazare Révolution, of the QJHL, in exchange for 1998-birth-year goalie Eric Jackson. At 6-3 and 196 pounds, the Montreal native will bring an element of size and strength to the Rock blue-line this season. SUBMITTED PHOTO
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – A trade with the QJHL’s Saint-Lazare Révolution has netted the Timmins Rock 2000-birth-year blue-liner Luka Bolduc — an eighth-round pick, 138th overall of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the 2017 QMJHL Entry Draft.
Headed to the Révolution in exchange for the 6-3 and 196-pound Montreal native is 2000-birth-year goalie Eric Jackson.
Bolduc (29, 0-4-4, 4) clearly brings an element of size to a Rock defence that is shaping up to be a little bigger than the group that patrolled the NOJHL squad’s blue-line in 2017-18.
“I am a defenceman who loves to move the puck,” Bolduc said.
“I am a big guy and I have a presence out there on the ice. I like opposition forwards to be afraid of me and not want to come down the wing on my side.
“Once I have the puck, I believe I skate well for my size and I can definitely rip some good shots from the blue-line, as well.”
Like most Junior ‘A’ players, Bolduc tried to pattern his game after a couple of NHLers when he was growing up.
“At first, I used to like a lot of the offensive Ds, but as started following my own path I started admiring the play of the stand-out big Ds, like Duncan Keith in Chicago, Shea Webber in Montreal and Victor Hedman in Tampa.
“He is an absolute beast out there.”
While Bolduc was drafted by the Huskies, he has no desire to pursue a career in the QMJHL.
“My goal has always been to go the college or university route,” he said.
“I would love to get an education while continuing to play hockey and as good as the major junior leagues are, I feel going the college or university route is the way to go.”
Bolduc knows a little bit about the NOJHL since a couple of his former teammates and friends have played in the league.
“A really good friend of mine, Colin Boudreau, just finished his last year of Junior ‘A’ with Hearst,” he said.
“David Dedo, who I played with in prep school, Addison Tkaczyk and Cole Burton played for Elliot Lake last season.
“They are all kids I met through hockey, either last year or the year before.”
Bolduc hasn’t had a chance to reach out to any of them since he learned about the trade.
“The trade came as a bit of a surprise,” he said.
“My parents called me Monday night because I was away in Toronto. It was my only weekend off during the summer.
“My parents had a conversation with the GM and coach of my former team in Quebec.
“Obviously, it is a shock, but I understand the situation. Our team struggled quite a bit last year, being a brand new team in the league and they are hoping to make an impact this year by bringing in a lot of older guys.
“Once I got over the shock of the trade, I really warmed up to the idea and I am really excited to be coming to Timmins.”
Given that at least one of his new Rock teammates is not too comfortable conversing in English, Rock coach Corey Beer might call upon Bolduc to assist with translation.
“I have done that quite often in the past,” Bolduc said.
“Last year, in Quebec, we had a couple of Americans on the team and they struggled with their French, so I helped them out as a translator.”
Being fully bilingual, Bolduc is eager to continue his Junior ‘A’ career in Timmins.
“I have been bilingual literally since I was born,” he said.
“I always speak to my dad in French and to my mom in English. Two years ago, when I was in Ontario, they were bugging me and saying I was going to lose my French.”
Like the majority of his new teammates, Bolduc is looking forward to the Rock’s annual golf tournament the day before players are scheduled to report for their medicals.
He admits, however, he is not much of a golfer and the chance to meet former NHL players Billy Smith, Kevin Stevens and Shayne Corson is the most appealing part of the event.
“My golf game is horrible,” he said.
“I have only been to the driving range once or twice. Put me on a mini-golf course and I might do okay.”
Being from Montreal and a huge Canadiens fan, it is only natural that the player Bolduc is most looking forward to meeting is Shayne Corson, who spent a good chunk of his NHL career wearing the red, white and blue.
“It is always great to be able to meet some ex-pros,” he said.
“Shayne Corson is a name I have heard many times before and any ex-NHL player is an idol to me.”
Beer is happy to see yet another sizeable addition to the Rock blue-line, with Bolduc set to join Will Caston, Carson Burlington, Owen Shier, Connor Mullins, Ian Elkins, the injured James Redmond and Eric Moreau.
“He is one of those guys who is going to come in and add a bit of stability,” Beer said.
“Having a year of Junior ‘A’ hockey under his belt always helps. He is going to be dependable for us and kind of a physical guy back there.
“We have received good reports on him and I know one of the players who played on his team and he described him as a hard worker.
“He is the kind of guy who will do anything for the team, so we are kind of excited to bring him in and add him to our mix of D-men.”
Although the coach puts a premium on defencemen who can move the puck quickly and efficiently, he is happy to have another big man to patrol the Rock blue-line this season.
“It is one of those things that we wanted to address a bit,” Beer said.
“I wouldn’t say that it haunted us last year, but the lack of size we had last year did make it tough at times, especially against some teams that had bigger forwards.
“Having a bit more size back there should make it easier to compete physically against some of these teams.
“Luka is a guy who can play a bruising style and take that physical toal off some of our younger, puck-moving defencemen.”
With the addition of Bolduc, the Rock now have five right-hand shooting defenders and three left-hand shooting blue-liners, but unlike Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, Beer does not stress about the need to pair up his D-men in left-right combos.
“You do want balance back there,” he said.
“It helps the transition game, but there will be times when we are lefty-lefty or righty-righty back there. It is just the way things go.
“More than anything, we want to make sure we are bringing in good people and good players, guys who are going to help our program and be good in our city and Luka certainly fits that mold.”
Jackson (1,766:00, 10-15-2-2, 0, 2.99, .895) had a solid, although injury-plagued, season for the Rock in 2017-18.
With 2000-birth-year goalie Tyler Masternak (1,288:00, 8-10-1-1, 2, 2.98, .899) likely to earn the bulk of the playing time in the Rock crease and fellow 2000-birth-year goalie Nicholas Dicks signed to back him up, Jackson — who will be entering his final year of Junior ‘A’ hockey became expendable.
“Eric did a tremendous job for us last year,” Beer said.
“He was one of those guys hadn’t had a real opportunity to establish himself. He had bounced around from organization to organization during his previous years of Junior ‘A’ hockey, so we wanted to give him every opportunity we could to get his feet under him.
“He had a great year. Maybe statistic-wise it might not have been what he had hoped it would be, but he was in the net for the brunt of season when we were dealing with injuries and not having a lot of success scoring goals for him.
“He was being called upon to make 30-plus saves a night and trying to scrape out a win and I thought he did a tremendous job.
“Even coming back later on in the playoffs after Tyler Masternak had kind of supplanted him, he did well.
“He took his game to the next level last year and we were a better team for it. We wish him all the best with the Révolution.”