The Timmins Rock have announced a flurry of off-season moves in preparation for the 2019-20 NOJHL campaign.
After being traded to the OJHL’s Toronto Patriots last off-season, 2001-birth-year forward Tyler Gilberds was reacquired by the Rock in exchange for a player development fee.
The Rock also made a pair of trades with CCHL teams, shipping 2000-birth-year forward Mahingan Decontie and 2000-birth-year defenceman Luka Bolduc to the Kanata Lasers, as well as sending 2001-birth-year defender Will Caston to the Rockland Nationals.
In addition, the Rock have announced the signing of 2001-birth-year right-handed blue-liner Alec Brown, who spent the 2018-19 campaign with the Central Ontario Wolves Midget ‘AAA’ squad.
Gilberds, who stands 6-2 and weighs 185 pounds, is a right-hander the Rock acquired from the Powassan Voodoos on Nov. 30, 2017.
In 25 regular-season games with the Rock, the Georgetown native scored five goals and added seven assists for 12 points, while recording 33 penalty minutes.
He went on to have a solid playoffs (13 games, five points, 10 penalty minutes) in 2018, highlighted by the series-clinching goal against the Voodoos.
In the off-season, Gilberds requested a trade and was dealt to the Patriots, where he collected 16 points and 88 penalty minutes in 49 games.
Rock coach Corey Beer is happy to have Gilberds back on his roster for the upcoming season.
“No. 1, in terms of style of play, he fits exactly what we are doing,” Beer said. “He is a great skater, with good vision and a great shot. All of those offensive tools that fit into our system.
“He is a guy who came in here as a 16 year old and was a Toronto boy who wanted to get back home. Then, he realized the best spot for him was actually up north in Timmins.”
Beer added he believes Gilberds is “in better shape than when he was younger” and that the 18-year-old is “craving more structure and he wants to be leaned on a bit more.”
Gilberds attended the second-annual Timmins Rock Prospect Camp, held June 8-9 in Oshawa.
He brings an element of size to the Rock forward group that featured only four skaters over six-feet tall last season. And as a righty that can play centre or wing, he has attributes that “don’t grow on trees,” according to Beer.
The systems the Rock employ have evolved significantly since Gilberds’ first tour of duty with the squad, but the time he spent in Timmins should give him a bit of a head start on some of his new teammates.
“The fact he wanted to come back and be a part of this speaks to the fact of where he is at in his thought process, too,” Beer said. “This isn’t just about getting his foot in the door in Junior ‘A’ hockey any more. It is about cementing himself in our lineup as a go-to guy and a proven guy now in the Junior ‘A’ ranks.
At 6-2 and 180 pounds, Brown should help replace some of the size the Rock will lose on the back end with the departure of Caston (6-4, 201 pounds) and Bolduc (6-3, 196 pounds).
A native of Zephyr, Ont., Brown (21 games, 10 points, 65 penalty minutes last year) spent two seasons with the Wolves.
“He is in the same mold as (Rock blue-liner) Eric Moreau in terms of what he brings to the game,” Beer said. “He is a steady, right-hand shot who makes a great first pass. There are a lot of simple things about his game, but he is a guy who plays with some nastiness down low. He has got some bite to his game.
“He is going to make opponents uncomfortable in our defensive zone. He is a guy we expect to bring along at a good pace and we expect to see some good things from him, the way we did with Eric Moreau.
“Right off the hope, is he going to grab the puck and go coast to coast? Absolutely not.
“He is going to play his game and do the right things that will keep him in the lineup.
“Come Christmas, or come the end of the year, people are going to sit there and say, ‘Man, this is a guy who has some nastiness to his game.’ He is going to make opponents pay.
“Rock fans are going to be pretty excited about the physical nature of his game. We have a lot of guys who are great with the puck, but this is a guy who is great away from the puck.”
The coach feels the fact Brown has played two seasons of Major Midget ‘AAA’ hockey will help ease his transition into the NOJHL.
“He is a guy who is physically developed already,” Beer said. “He has got the size and we expect he will grow into his body a little bit more, but he is certainly not a guy we are going to worry about getting overpowered in the corners.”
Decontie (42 games, 18 points, 10 penalty minutes last year) and Bolduc (49 games, 10 points, 27 penalty minutes last year) both spent one season with the Rock prior to this week’s trade to Kanata.
“(Decontie) was a late acquisition in camp last year and as things kept moving along, he was a guy that kept forcing our hand,” Beer said.
“He forced his way onto the roster. It was slow going for a while, with him coming out of prep school, but he got himself acclimated to Junior ‘A’ hockey and I thought come playoff time, he was that extra weapon on our second scoring line with Josh Dickson and Riley Brousseau.
“He scored a monster goal in that Cochrane series to allow us to advance on to the second round.
“I thought (Decontie) made some tremendous strides this year, but proximity wise, this trade gets him closer to home (Gatineau, Que.). Getting back closer to family is a big thing and Kanata is going to be the beneficiary of a lot of hard work he put in this past year.”
The coach is confident Bolduc will have a similar impact on the Lasers’ roster.
“Luka was a guy who came to Timmins and was content to be a stay-at-home, shutdown defenceman and we quickly explained to him he couldn’t just do that with us,” Beer said.
“Our defencemen have to be involved in the rush and they have to be involved offensively.
“From an intellectual standpoint, Luka was one of the smartest minds to play for our team. He can certainly think the game at a high level. He understood everything in our playbook.
“He really got himself going and turned himself into one our horses back there.
“The wrist injury he sustained in the playoffs hurt us a bit. We lost Josh Anderson to suspension, we lost Eric Moreau to a shoulder injury and all of a sudden (Bolduc) was out with a wrist injury and man, our transition game went out the window.”
Bolduc’s presence will be missed off the ice, as well.
“People liked engaging in conversations with him,” Beer said. “He is easy to talk to and he always came to the rink with a smile. He is just a really good human being. It was certainly a pleasure to coach him while he was here.”
After the trade was announced, Bolduc took to Twitter to recommend players consider signing with the Rock and praising the organization from top to bottom, while also expressing appreciation to the team’s fans.
“He put all of that in 280 characters on Twitter, but he made an hour-and-a-half phone call to thank me for all the help and he called Dazzer (assistant coach James Daschuk), Beezer (assistant coach Marc Bisson) and Peeves (general manager Kevin Peever),” Beer said.
“That’s the type of kid he is. You are not going to find a classier young man. He is going to be sorely missed on and off the ice.”
Meanwhile, Caston (52 games, 22 points, 63 penalty minutes) spent two seasons in Timmins after signing as a 16-year-old prior to the start of the 2017-18 campaign.
In fact, he was one of Beer’s first recruits after the coach was hired by the Rock to replace Paul Gagne.
“There was definitely an emotional tie,” Beer said. “He was definitely the first guy I convinced to come up north with me. He really put the trust in us as an organization.
“He is going to go to Rockland and do a great job. There was a lot of work put into his game and a lot of minutes played.
“Will is a guy who at 16 years old was playing 22 minutes a night for us, playing against the likes of Kyle Herbster and Tyson Gilmour, real good offensive 19- and 20-year-old players.
“He is going to be a tough player to replace.”
Following the trades and the signing of Brown, the Rock now officially have four players on their 2019-20 roster after earlier signing 16-year-old forwards Cameron Kosurko and Rhys Chiddenton.
That number will likely grow quickly, however, with a number of veterans from the 2018-19 squad expected to resign in the coming weeks and at least a handful of the prospects who attended the camp in Oshawa expected to ink cards.
Beer was certainly impressed by what he saw during the two-day camp in Oshawa.
“I was blown away, to be quite honest,” he said.
“Some of the families of players who were with us last year said they were so impressed by the talent on the ice during the camp. Our returning guys led the charge. They are going to be the backbone of our team this year and they were also the backbone of this camp.
“They drove the play and they challenged the prospects we were looking at to be better and make the team. It is a credit to our organization that we are bringing back that kind of talent.
“There were some very tough decisions down the stretch. We were sitting there and there were maybe four guys battling for two spots. We were splitting hairs and saying we could go any way. What’s the right move for the Timmins Rock? Who are the right guys?”
The Rock had 17 players from last year’s squad at the camp, not counting captain Derek Seguin and goalie Tyler Masternak, who did not see any ice time during the weekend.
“We also had Tyler Hutchinson, who is too old to play, there,” Beer said. “He wanted to be around and help out.”
NOJHL NOTES —Tickets for the Timmins Rock’s third-annual NHL fundraiser are going quickly. 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 cost $75 and are available at KIA of Timmins and the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre.