A Look At Who’s In And Who’s Out
Oakville, ON – Losing a pair of nail-biting one-goal playoff games to the Buffalo Bandits last spring, the Toronto Rock came as close as you can to winning the East Conference finals and advancing to play for the NLL Cup, a trophy that has eluded the franchise for over a decade.
With training camp opening on Saturday, the Rock will once again embark on a journey to get over the hump, get back to the NLL finals, and close the deal when winter once again becomes spring in the new year.
Having the NLL’s second-best regular season record at 13-5 would lead many teams to stand pat and try and run it back with the same group, however Rock GM Jamie Dawick made some significant changes to the roster in an effort to reclaim glory.
“We’re always trying to get better, if we have the opportunity to get better, we’re going to take advantage of that opportunity,” said Dawick. “Some of the moves were brought on by circumstances and we didn’t necessarily feel like anyone had to go, but we are always looking to make the team better. We’ll bring in the pieces to improve, we’ll do it.”
While the Rock allowed the fewest goals against in the NLL last season, Dawick went out and signed unrestricted free agent defender Chris Corbeil away from the Saskatchewan Rush to bolster his defence. The 34-year-old from Oakville, ON wasn’t just a piece of three championship Rush squads, but he was the captain of those teams and one of the top defenders in the league over those title runs.
“Corbeil is a winner, proven superstar, leader, and great player in this league,” said Dawick. “Adding a player, who on any given year is one of the best D, if not the best, you have to do it. It makes us better, that’s why we do it.”
The club has however recently announced that Corbeil has been moved to the Injured Reserve List after suffering a torn pectoral muscle that required surgery. Corbeil is on the road to recovery but will not be available to the Rock to begin the 2022-23 season. The club is optimistic he’ll suit up for the team later this season.
While we may have to wait a bit to see the impact of the defensive addition to the roster, up front Dawick made some sizeable moves.
The first of which would be one of circumstance as Dawick alluded to. In August, the last holdover from the Rock’s 2011 championship squad, Rob Hellyer, requested a trade to a western based team due to impending work opportunities. The Rock accommodated the ask and moved the Rock all-time great to the expansion Las Vegas Desert Dogs for first round picks in the 2024 and 2025 NLL Draft. Those picks will help the Rock restock the roster with top end talent in the future.
The trading of Hellyer means captain Challen Rogers will move into a full-time offensive role. To compliment the newly revamped offensive right side of Rogers, Dan Dawson and Tom Schreiber – yes, the same Schreiber that tied for the league lead with 47 goals and had the NLL’s highest goals-per-game average – the Rock signed unrestricted free agent (UFA) forward Stephen Keogh away from the Halifax Thunderbirds. Keogh is a proven winner at every level, many times over, and his gritty game will be something the Rock City faithful will certainly appreciate.
The Rock also signed UFA veteran lefty Corey Small who scored 30 goals with the Philadelphia Wings a year ago. The added threat on offence should take some pressure off of last year’s breakout star Dan Craig and up and coming sniper Zach Manns. It’s far from a stretch and it’s now maybe even an expectation that all three of those lefty forwards will each score 20-plus goals this year. To take it one step further, it’s not out of the question say that two of them could top the 30-goal mark.
These offensive tweaks give the Rock one of the best mixes up front in franchise history.
“We’ve made no secret recently that we have though our offence could be a bit better but could only do that by bringing in the right pieces,” explained Dawick. “Corey and Stephen are each terrific fits with our core group. It’s tricky, finding the right piece of the puzzle. That’s the real challenge, finding those pieces that let you complete the puzzle as best as possible.”
As far as other offseason changes go, there will be one noticeable difference between the pipes as backup netminder Riley Hutchcraft was selected by Las Vegas in the expansion draft. Troy Holowchuk will serve as Nick Rose’s backup with recent draft pick Sam Haines looking to earn a spot on the team’s practice roster.
Other notables not returning are forward Justin Scott who signed with Albany as a free agent. A pair of trades sent Reid Reinholdt to Las Vegas and Aaron Forster to Albany with a draft pick coming back in each deal.
Additionally absent will be defender Jason Noble who was placed on the Holdout List after informing the club he would not be attending training camp.
The Rock’s training camp will be the smallest in recent memory with just 27 players attending. 23 NLL veterans and four players selected by the Rock in September at the NLL Draft, including forward Josh Dawick, son of the Rock’s GM and Owner, will make up the training camp roster.
“We don’t overdo it with practices and games in the preseason and our battles are more about players on the active versus practice roster,” said Dawick. “We’re pretty set on our group as a whole and feel it’s better to get right down to it. We want to get to work with our team instead of bringing in guys who won’t have much of a chance to crack our roster.”
Following Saturday morning’s physicals and the opening on-floor session in the afternoon, the Rock will be together again on Tuesday night as a group for one last preparation before the team’s first exhibition scrimmage scheduled for Saturday, November 12 at 7pm against the reigning NLL champion, Colorado Mammoth. All Rock training camp sessions and exhibition scrimmages will be at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre and open to the public.
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