NLL Preview: Toronto Rock

Zach Currier cross checks Tom Schreiber. (Photo credit: Anna Taylor)

Embarking on their highly anticipated 2018/19 season, the Toronto Rock find themselves with new expectations and new faces.

Coming off a modest 2017/18 season the Rock are looking to assert their dominance in the Eastern Division once again. This year, that may come as a challenge as the club lost some key players in the NLL expansion draft including 40-point contributor Brett Hickey.

Hickey was a non-argumentative piece that led to the Rock’s success last season. With his offensive contributions complimented by Tom Schreiber, the Rock were a force to be reckoned with last season. Though that was last season, the expectations remain the same for the six-time Champion’s Cup winners as they will face new highs and lows this season. The now Hickey-less Rock will be leaning on Schreiber, Adam Jones, and Dan Lintner to rack up the points this season. Now if they are unable to post the same production they reached last year, they can find comfort in the fact that number 66 is on the back end and playing better than ever.

Nick Rose cemented himself as not only the starter for the Rock but an MVP as well. His ball stopping contributions along with his ability to play a vital role in the team’s breakout strategy was more than helpful through the season. Backing him up this year is Mimico Mountaineer grad Riley Hutchcraft. Hutchcraft comes in as a replacement for Brand Miller, who was a fan favourite and one of the best goalies to dawn a Rock uniform since Bob Watson.

Miller saw limited time with the Rock last season as it was Rose on a nightly basis. In the moments where we did see Miller, it was special for all Rock fans. After an 18-year career in the NLL, the Orangeville, Ont. native has joined the bench as a goaltending coach. Miller’s choice to stay involved with the Rock organization comes a monumental time for Hutchcraft who sets out in his second year in the NLL. With the departure of Hickey, it will be the boys in the crease anchoring down this year’s 2018/19 Toronto Rock.

One notable about this year’s Toronto Rock is the selection of Challen Rogers as the team’s captain after Brodie Merrill signed with San Diego. Rogers, who was selected by the Rock second overall in the 2016 NLL draft follows in the footsteps of Rock captains who have served before him. Rogers is more than up for the challenge as two seasons into his NLL career, the Coquitlam, BC native was a complete team player on the floor. In his role last year which saw him record 29 points while playing on the defensive side of the ball, more of the same will be expected.

Rogers and the Rock kick off their season tonight against their QEW rival, the Buffalo Bandits. The Bandits are another team to watch this season. A team that started out scorching hot but fizzled near the end of the season. With the addition of Matt Vinc, Buffalo gets yet another solid net minder as Anthony Cosmo decided to follow Miller in retirement.

With both of these teams duking it out in the East among the Georgia Swarm, New England Black Wolves, and the new Philadelphia Wings, tonight’s game is a must-win for the Rock.

This year Toronto Rock will look like the following:

Forwards (8): Phil Caputo, Dan Craig, Rob Hellyer, Adam Jones, Dan Lintner, Kieran McArdle, Johnny Powless, Tom Schreiber

Defence (11): Sheldon Burns, Damon Edwards, Latrell Harris, Billy Hostrawser, Adam Jay, Brad Kri, Creighton Reid, Challen Rogers, Brandon Slade, Brock Sorensen, Alec Tulett

Goaltender (2): Riley Hutchcraft, Nick Rose

Practice Roster: Jay Thorimbert, Mitch Gustavsen, Brad Lyons