Editor’s Note: This is part of an ongoing series, previewing each NLL team as the season approaches. This week we preview the Toronto Rock. Toronto went 8-10 last season and missed out on the playoffs. Read our other NLL team previews: Calgary Roughnecks, New England Black Wolves, Colorado Mammoth, Buffalo Bandits.
Which Toronto Rock team will show up in 2019? In the Rock’s 20 year history, they have only missed the playoffs 4 times and with the bulk of last year’s squad returning, are they poised to make another run at an NLL Championship? Can Tom Schreiber stay healthy and have an MVP
season? Do the Rock have the best transition game in the NLL? There are several questions the Rock will need to answer as they look to rebound after a disappointing end to the season last year. Here is what the Toronto Rock will look like in 2019.
RF Rob Hellyer – 93 PTS (30 G, 63 A), 84 LB
RF Tom Schreiber – 64 PTS (25 G, 39 A), 57 LB
RF Dan Lintner – 25 PTS (18 G, 7 A), 27 LB
LF Adam Jones – 89 PTS (37 G, 52 A), 109 LB
LF Reid Reinholdt – 44 PTS (20 G, 24 A), 74 LB
LF Kieran McArdle – 39 PTS (18 G, 21 A), 54 LB
T Brock Sorensen – 10 PTS (3 G, 7 A), 81 LB, 16 CTO, 60 PIM
D Challen Rogers – 29 PTS (15 G, 14 A), 86 LB, 15 CTO
D Sheldon Burns – 22 PTS (8 G, 14 A), 78 LB, 8 CTO
D Latrell Harris – 13 PTS (6 G, 7A), 104 LB, 34 CTO
D Brad Kri – 6 PTS (1 G, 5 A), 135 LB, 32 CTO, 41 PIM, 172-322 (.534%) FO
G Nick Rose – 8 PTS (8 A), 11.63 GAA, .757 SV% (197 GA, 650 SV), 8 W – 9 L
RF Brett Hickey – 40 PTS (24 G, 16 A), 47 LB, taken in Expansion Draft by Philadelphia
T Brodie Merrill – 22 PTS (6 G, 16 A), 127 LB, 14 CTO, Free Agent
D Sandy Chapman – 151 PTS in 252 career games in the NLL, won 5 NLL Championships
G Brandon Miller – 12.04 GAA, .761 SV% (11 GA, 35 SV), 1 L, retired after 2018 season
LF Johnny Powless – 31 PTS (11 G, 20 A), 32 LB, acquired in trade from Calgary
D Creighton Reed – 4 PTS (4 A), 48 LB, with Calgary in 2017 and signed as a free agent, spent
first 2 seasons in the league with Toronto
LF John St. John – 51 PTS (20 G, 36 A), with Oshawa Outlaws in the ALL
D Brad Lyons – 6 PTS (4 G, 2 A), 45 PIM, with Peterborough Lakers Jr. A , 24th pick in the
D AJ Kluck – 3 PTS (3 A), with Burnaby Lakers WLA, 44th pick in the 2018 Draft
T Scott Dominey – 27 PTS (11 G, 16 A), 84 PIM, with the Orangeville Northmen in the 2018 Jr.
A season, 57th pick in the 2018 Draft
D Mitch Gustavsen – 28 PTS (12 G, 16 A), 147 PIM, 88-119 (.739) FO, with Toronto Beaches,
68th pick in the 2018 Draft
D Alec Tulett – 1 PTS (1 G), 24 LB, 12 CTO, with Florida Launch, 35th pick in the 2017 Draft
D Josh Jubenville – 5 PTS (2 G, 3 A), with Oakville Rock, 40th pick in the 2017 Draft
Rob Hellyer returned from injury last season to lead the Rock with 93 points and will look to continue putting up big numbers going into this season.
Hellyer is joined on the right side by the dynamic Tom Schreiber, inside finisher Dan Lintner, Phil Caputo, and after a stellar summer playing forward in the MSL, Challen Rogers could see some runs out of the front door with this group as well. They lose a good shooter in Brett Hickey, but this will free up others to get more chances as Hickey was third in shots last season with 172.
Both Hellyer and Schreiber are incredible players and both of them could have 6 points a night if they can continue to learn to play with each other. Schreiber breaking ankles and Hellyer popping corners is a nightmare for
On the left side, veteran sharpshooter Adam Jones returns along with the steady Reid Reinholdt, the constantly improving other half of the American Experiment Kieran McArdle, and the crafty Dan Craig.
Johnny Powless will also provide some scoring depth coming in after
playing for the Black Wolves last season. John St. John will also likely be thrown into the mix.
Jonesy’s playmaking ability and grit will likely not slow down anytime soon as his 89 points in 2018 were his highest in his past 3 seasons. If McArdle can become an elite shooter and Reinholdt keeps adding more points, both the left and right sides will be huge problems for defenses around the league.
The Schreiber Effect
The Rock were 5-3 when Captain America was healthy at the start of the season, 2-5 when he was out of the lineup, and 1-2 when he was playing with a banged up knee.
No Rock forward scored a goal in a 11-7 loss to Colorado without him playing. He transforms their offense when he is on the floor. His speed, shiftiness, vision, and no fear playing style frees up opportunities for himself, but also his teammates to score and make plays. He is also coming off winning a Field Lacrosse World Championship with Team USA this past summer in which he scored the game winning goal in the final seconds.
In his third year of playing box lacrosse, a healthy Tom Schreiber could have an MVP season and help lead the Rock back to the playoffs.
The losses of both Brodie Merrill and Sandy Chapman will not affect the stat sheet as much they will the dynamic of the defense and the team as a whole. Their veteran leadership on the floor and in the locker room was the backbone of the Rock defense and now new leaders must emerge.
The Rock will look to returning veterans Damon Edwards, Brock Sorensen, Billy Hostrawser, and Sheldon Burns to provide steady leadership. NLL veteran Creighton Reed returns to Toronto where he won a championship with the team in 2011 and will strengthen the veteran presence on defense even more.
Also look for Challen Rogers and Latrell Harris, who now each have two seasons under their belt, to continue to become dominate defenders that will wreak havoc on opposing teams by putting the ball on the floor and using their speed in the transition game.
Rogers was deadly with 15 goals last year pushing the ball up the floor. Brad Kri has also elevated his game and had 32 caused turnovers last season.
Newcomers Brad Lyons, AJ Kluck, Alec Tulett, Mitch Gustavson, and Josh Jubenville are still battling it out in training camp to get a spot on this new look defense.
Toronto native Tulett is returning to box lacrosse after an impressive field lacrosse career at Brown University and in the MLL. He is a vacuum on loose balls and is not afraid to go to the net in transition.
Brad Kri will return as the Rock’s primary draw man after a solid 2018 season where he finished with a .534 winning percentage. Draft pick Mitch Gustavson was a stellar draw man in Jr. A for the Toronto Beaches and had a .739 winning percentage last season. He could contribute right away if he can muck it up and get more possessions for the Rock.
As faceoffs become more important with more dominant draw men in the league, the Rock will need to battle to get loose balls off of draws and get their lethal offense the ball.
Nick Rose returns as the Rock’s starting goalie after having a very solid year in net despite the team’s struggles in the second half of the season in 2018. His experience will play a huge role in leading the defense, talking to guys to make sure they are where they need to be, and making outlet passes to guys streaking up the floor. Rose and the defense were often the only thing keeping scores from getting out of hand last year when the offense had their slumps.
Backup Riley Hutchcraft will keep improving behind Rose in his second NLL season and has the skills to become a starter in the near future. Rose will keep the Rock in tight games all year as he continues to be a brick wall in net on the back end.
Outlook for 2019:
Head coach Matt Sawyer returns the majority of his squad from 2018. As training camp continues, there is only one weekend left for newcomers to make their case for a roster spot.
During the first weekend of training camp, the Rock scrimmaged the defending NLL-champion Saskatchewan Rush to a 12-12 tie at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre. It was only a preseason scrimmage, but the Rock are already clicking and were able to score 12 goals on the Rush without Tom Schreiber, who will join the team the last weekend of training camp.
If the 2019 Rock can play the fast paced and gritty game that they are built for they will be one of the top teams in an East Division that will as strong as ever.
Buffalo will be extremely tough to beat with the additions of Matt Vinc and Corey Small, Rochester returns most of their 2018 team that appeared in the championship, the always dangerous Georgia will be itching to return
to the NLL finals, and New England will look to have back to back playoff appearances. The Rock will also need to take the revived Philadelphia Wings seriously in their first season. If the Rock want to make a return to the playoffs, then they need to play their best lacrosse in March and April to avoid the slump they experienced last season.
The deadline for final rosters is Monday, December 10th. The Rock have already released Jordan Dance, Brenden Welsh, Grant Scott, Marcus Minichiello, Michael Byrne and Darryl Robertson from the training camp roster. The final roster Coach Sawyer and his staff put together is likely
going to be one of the best Toronto has seen in years. Their mix of savvy veterans and exciting young talent will look to bring back an NLL championship to Toronto in 2019.
Due to the first two weeks of the original schedule being cancelled due to the CBA negotiations, the Toronto Rock will begin their 2019 season on the road in Buffalo on December 21st and then face Georgia in their home opener on December 28th.
Click here for Toronto’s full 2019 schedule here.