San Jose Stealth forward Rhys Duch has earned the National Lacrosse League’s Rookie of the Year Award for his performance during the 2009 regular season. Duch played a major role in the Stealth’s run to the West Division Finals as the team’s second leading scorer. Fellow rookies Paul Rabil and Tyler Richards were also named to the NLL All-Rookie Team.
The #3 overall pick in the 2008 NLL Entry Draft, Duch set a new rookie scoring record this season with 89 points (35g, 54a). He broke the previous mark of 82 points set by Gavin Prout in 2002. His 89 points were good for seventh in the league and he finished in the top ten in both assists (6th) and goals (8th). He was second on the Stealth in loose balls as well, grabbing 97 in 16 games. Three times this season Duch was named the NLL Rookie of the Week and was the Rookie of the Month in March.
“It’s a great honor and really nice to be recognized,” said the Victoria, British Columbia native who averaged over 5.5 points per game. “I am lucky to start my career with a great group of guys. I learned a lot from my coaches and teammates and none of this happens without them.”
With the Stealth’s playoff hopes on the line, Duch posted 36 points (16g, 20a) in the last six games as San Jose went 4-2 and clinched the #3 seed in the West Division playoffs. In three of those games, Duch recorded a season-high eight points; none more important than his eight-point output in Colorado on April 11 when his overtime game-winner locked the Stealth’s position in the playoffs.
Along with Duch, two more Stealth players were named to the NLL All-Rookie Team. Transition player Paul Rabil finished the season with 34 points (16g, 18a) after starting the season in a primarily defensive role. He tallied a season-high four points (2g, 2a) in a must-win, 18-8 victory over the Minnesota Swarm on April 3. Rabil made a name for himself as a star at Johns Hopkins University, where he was a four-time All-American and Tewarraton Trophy finalist.
“First season in the NLL was obviously a big adjustment going from the field game to indoor,” said Rabil, the #2 overall pick in the 2008 NLL Entry Draft. “But I was lucky to be drafted by such a great organization with great players and coaches who were really accommodating and taught me a lot in a short period of time. And playing with other great rookies like Rhys [Duch], Tyler [Richards], [Brett] Manney and all our rookies made it easier as we went through it together.”
Goaltender Tyler Richards was the third Stealth All-Rookie Team member. He was selected by the Stealth in the fourth round of the 2007 NLL Entry Draft. He didn’t see any action in 2008, making him eligible as a rookie for the 2009 season. He made the most of his opportunity, beginning the season as the #3 goalie on the Stealth roster before becoming the team’s starter by the end of the year.
Richards played a major role in the Stealth’s stretch run, going 3-1 with a goals against average of 10.08 and a .803 save percentage. He solidified his role as the starting netminder with a 43 save performance in the Stealth’s 13-8 victory over Portland on March 29. “I just wanted to go in there and give the team a chance to win every night,” said the 22-year old Vancouver native. “The defense really came together down the stretch and they deserve a lot of credit.” He went on to start each game the rest of the season, including the playoffs.
“It’s really nice to see our young stars receive recognition for their hard work; they are the future of the NLL,” said Stealth President and General Manager Johnny Mouradian. “I give a lot of credit to [Vice President and Assistant General Manager] Doug Locker and [Director of Player Development] Bob Allan, who head our scouting efforts. They did a great job identifying these young talents and making them feel comfortable playing in our market. They, as well as our veteran guys and coaching staff, do a lot to help these young guys overcome the challenges of playing in the NLL and so far away from home.”
While the three rookies are happy to earn the recognition from the league, each of them expressed their excitement for the future. “Ultimately though, we didn’t accomplish our biggest goal: winning a championship,” said Rabil. “We are going to be some pretty hungry sophomores next year.”
The 2009 NLL Awards announcements continue tomorrow with the announcement of the All-Pro Teams. The announcements will conclude on Thursday, May 14 with the announcement of the 2009 Most Valuable Player Award, presented by Reebok. The NLL Championship Game takes place on Friday, May 15 as the Calgary Roughnecks host the New York Titans at 9:30pm Eastern.