Tennis does Rohrer a favor
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The 17-year-old Canadiens prospect played in the world of tennis for a decade before investing full-time in his hockey career because the « team » aspect appealed to him.
Today, Rohrer is reaping the rewards of his on-court experience and putting it to good use with the Ottawa 67’s in the OHL.
The former Austrian national junior tennis champion led his club with 25 goals scored last season, his first in Canada, including seven on the power play.
He believes that some of those goals scored with man advantage are a direct result of the level hand-eye coordination he has developed serving balls and taking part in high-caliber rallies.
“Tennis has helped a lot with the coordination of my hands and feet. I spent all my time in net on the power play in Ottawa because I explained to the guys that if they threw the puck normally, with a normal wrist shot, I was going to deflect it nine times out of 10. I really put the emphasis on that with our defenseman placed in the top of the territory, Jack Matier, ”said Rohrer, chosen in the third round (75th overall) in the NHL Draft last month. “The guys on the flanks are mostly one-timers or they come forward and shoot, which is hard to deflect. I’m more of a screen person. That’s why I always said to the defender at the point: « If you have a corridor, shoot. Don’t even ask yourself if there is an opening or if you should shoot high or low; shoot to the net and I’m going to deflect it. » That was not bad, the strategy. »
The Feldkirch-born striker recalls being placed on the wing at some point during a few practices and games, and he quickly felt like he didn’t belong.
Rohrer loves being in the thick of the action. Without a doubt.
« That’s when I went to the coach and said, ‘I really like being in net. I’m not scared of the puck and I like to do some deflections.’ So we applied that to the power play,” mentioned Rohrer, also the 67’s leading scorer in 2021-2022 (48 points in 64 season games). “Some of my goals were clear deflections from the toe of the paddle, and others were scored on rebounds from the goalie’s pads. »
The young center has also benefited mentally from his journey in the world of tennis.
Indulging in an individual sport can often be more grueling when things don’t go your way, of course, but it made him stronger between the two ears.
“Tennis is an individual sport, so you can’t really hide behind others. In hockey, if you don’t have a good game, maybe a scout will really notice, but it’s even more obvious when you’re not playing a good game and you’re struggling mentally tennis. Everyone sees it, ”said Rohrer, a few minutes after being chosen by the Habs at the Bell Center four weeks ago. “It’s something that carries over into life, not just hockey. I think you can learn from other sports, not just hockey. »
Rohrer was initially introduced to tennis by members of his family and then he followed in their footsteps.
His father, Stefan Lochbihler, is a former professional tennis player who rose to world No. 141, won the ATP Challenger Tour title in 1989, and is currently a national coach for the Liechtenstein.
His older brother, Niklas, also plays tennis and recently earned the first ATP points of his career in doubles at an ITF Futures tournament in Kottingbrunn.
As for the NHL prospect’s old style of play…
“I was scattered. I’ve always done a serve-and-volley sequence. I was playing an unusual style, I guess. I wasn’t the kind of guy to hit 50 balls out and back. I was the type to get in front of the net and do a lot of blocks, described Rohrer. I also sometimes made shots that were really too aggressive. It was my style of play. »
His role models growing up included 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal and Frenchman Gael Monfils.
The two athletes captured his attention for different reasons.
“In Nadal’s case, it was his attitude and the way he conducted himself on the pitch. He has an appetite and he never lets his emotions take over. That’s what I really liked about him, detailed Rohrer. And Monfils is the kind of player I was. I’ve always been the type of guy who can run pretty fast and get to all the balls. He does the same thing. »
Nadal remains one of his favorites, but Argentinian Diego Schwartzman is not far behind.
“He reminds me a bit of my brother. My brother is really short, like Diego,” Rohrer quipped, referring to the 5’7” ATP veteran. “My brother adores him, so I also like watching him play. »
Monfils and Schwartzman must take part in the 2022 National Bank Open at the Stade IGA in Montreal, which begins this Saturday with the qualifications.
Rohrer will unfortunately not be present, but he hopes to be able to follow the tournament a bit from overseas.
And, although golf is now his primary hobby, he remains an avid tennis fan.
“It’s not bad on our TV all the time, at home, when my father and my brother are there. Growing up, I probably looked at all the forehand charts there were on YouTube,” Rohrer recalled with a laugh. “I still watch a lot of tennis. »