Toronto Rock 2017-18 Season Preview

Jim Veltman of the Toronto Rock defends against Jason Clark of the Arizon Sting. The Rock went on to win the NLL Champions Cup Saturday, May, 14, 2005, at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto Ontario Canada. (Photo by B. White/WireImage)
Jim Veltman of the Toronto Rock defends against Jason Clark of the Arizon Sting. The Rock went on to win the NLL Champions Cup Saturday, May, 14, 2005, at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto Ontario Canada. (Photo by B. White/WireImage) /
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Drew Belgrave, Phil Caputo, Sandy Chapman, Damon Edwards, Latrell Harris, Bill Hostrawser, Bradley Kri, Jordan Magnuson, Brodie Merrill, Brock Sorenson

The Toronto Rock defence has gone through a complete overhaul over the past two years. 2016 2nd-Overall Pick Challen Rogers and 12th pick Latrell Harris both had impact seasons out of the Rock backdoor. Fellow 2016 pick Jordan Magnuson made the team out of training camp and had a quietly solid year for the team. Brock Sorenson also returned at the tail-end of the year after coming off a torn ACL.

All four men are a part of the Rock lineup this season, that was never in doubt. The Rock will be without several familiar faces on their back end come the start of the season.

Rob Marshall and Jeff Gilbert both retired from the league in the summer. Marshall was the longest-tenured athlete in Toronto until his retirement. Gilbert was going into his fourth season with the Rock after returning for a second stint after time away with Minnesota.

Additionally, the team will be without Jesse Gamble, who will sit out the entire 2017-18 season due to personal work commitments.

Patrick Merrill remains a free agent after only appearing in two games with the teams last season.

The defence will once again be led by captain Brodie Merrill. The 13-year veteran led the team in loose balls with 171 to go along with 19 points.

He will be joined by Damon Edwards and Latrell Harris, who were two of the best lockdown defenders for the Rock last season. Both are coming off tremendous seasons for separate reasons.

Edwards was coming back from a torn ACL suffered over the summer of 2015. The Rock felt how important his presence was this year when he went head-to-head with the opposition’s top players on a nightly basis.

Easily the biggest surprise for the Rock last season was Harris. At only 18-years-old, the St. Catherines, Ont. native made the Rock roster out of training camp and proceeded to dominate for the rest of the season.

Harris led all rookies in loose balls with 109, which was 14th best in the NLL and second best on the Rock behind Merrill. Additionally, Harris had 13 points in 18 games. His most memorable offensive moment was a game-tying goal in transition against Georgia in the final minute of the game.

The Rock will take a slight hit with their transition game with the loss of Gamble. However, Drew Belgrave will look to replace the production Gamble brought to the Rock roster.

Belgrave had a chance to play for the New Westminster Salmonbellies in the Mann Cup this summer as a 21-year-old. There was a reason that Dawick and the Rock brass moved up to take him in the draft. It will be interesting to get a look at him in game action as there isn’t much to go off of online. Here’s a snippet from ILIndoor writer Stephen Stamp on the rookie.

"Belgrave is fantastically athletic. He was on the floor every night for the Sr Salmonbellies in the Mann Cup while more veteran players were in and out of the lineup as healthy scratches."

Sandy Chapman will once again bring his pesky style of play to the table. The veteran will surely help out the younger members of the defence to make the next big steps in their respective careers.

Jordan Magnuson is another defender that impressed mightily last season after cracking the roster as a third-round pick, something that is hard to do in the NLL.

Brock Sorenson played in four games last season for the Rock after coming off a torn ACL. He should see a full workload this year as the towering defender possesses a great mix of size and skill. He will be a threat in transition all season.

The defence is rounded out by Brad Kri, Bill Hostrawser and Phil Caputo.

Kri is best known for his job at the face-off x for the Rock. He had a 59.2 face-off percentage, which was the best of his career. He also chips in on the defensive side of the ball and is another big body who will play his part in stopping the opposition.

Always the agitator, Hostrawser appeared in every game for the Rock last season. After posting 175 penalty minutes combined over the 2015 and 2016 campaigns, Howstrawser only had 14 PIM’s in 2017. He matched up against some of the best competition that opposing teams had to offer so he will be another crucial piece to the Rock’s success.

Lastly, Caputo is converting from forward to defence. It’s hard to say how he will do with that transition, however, Head Coach Matt Sawyer said he and the coaching staff like Caputo as a player and are excited to see how the move pans out.

"“We talked to Phil about this possibility last year from the time he signed with us. Phil wants to be in our lineup in any way possible and from our conversations, I know he shares our excitement and the coaching staff has a lot of confidence in him. We think he’s going take advantage of this opportunity and excel.”"

Overall, the Rock defence looks good. When 2016 second-overall pick Challen Rogers returns from injury, he will add that much more to the fold.