By Scott Linesburgh
The Stockton Record
STOCKTON, Calif. – David Rohlfs might have to change positions Wednesday, and it doesn’t bother him at all.
One of the things the rookie has learned in the first 14 games of his professional career is that it pays to be versatile.
Brad Farynuk‘s promotion to the American Hockey League has left the Thunder short of defensemen as the club prepares to meet the Alaska Aces at 7 p.m. at Stockton Arena. Rohlfs, a burly 6-foot-3, 234-pound forward, likely will be called upon to join the defensemen for some shifts.
“And that’s fine with me, I’ve done it before,” Rohlfs said. “I’m comfortable with it, and I see it as an asset to be able to move over and help.”
With Farynuk reassigned to the Springfield Falcons, Stockton (6-7-1) has five pure defensemen – Mark Adamek, Phil Cole, Beau Geisler, Ryan Geris and Brian Lee. Sebastien Bisaillon was sent to Springfield on Nov. 10.
When the Thunder has needed an extra defenseman, they’ve turned to Rohlfs, who played the position many times when he was at University of Michigan. Rohlfs has played three games this season on the blue line and was lined up as a defenseman when he scored the overtime goal in Stockton’s 2-1 win against Alaska in the home opener on Oct. 27.
“Even when we’ve used him on the blue line, Dave still found offensive openings, and his versatility will really help him in his career,” Thunder coach Chris Cichocki said. “It’s been invaluable to us. He’s always willing to do what you need him to do.”
Rohlfs, who was drafted in the fifth round by the Edmonton Oilers in 2003, said he has swapped positions throughout his career. Growing up in Northville, Mich., he started playing hockey at age 8 as a defenseman but moved to forward when he was 10. At Michigan, he played on the blue line extensively during his sophomore and junior seasons.
He said the difference between the positions is more psychological than physical.
“There is a different approach,” Rohlfs said. “Sometimes you want to go up ice and go after the puck and have to remember to stay back. Sometimes I have to remind myself.”
His teammates said Rohlfs, 23, has no problem adjusting.
“He’s done great,” Geisler said. “He fits right in and knows what he’s doing.”
But even with Rohlfs as an option, the defensive unit is thin without Bisaillon and Farynuk and might have to take a little different approach against the Aces (9-3-1).
“You go in knowing you might play more shifts, and we have to avoid getting penalties if we can,” Geris said. “But we’re fine, and we have Dave to help.”