At Edmonton Rush camp, recent draft selections John Lafontaine, Kedoh Hill, Cameron Holding and Jarrett Toll are the newcomers amongst 27 players in the midst of orientation camp as the Rush prepares for the upcoming 2011 National Lacrosse League season.
A crop of talented rookie are hoping to make their way into the Rush lineup this season.
Recent draft selections John Lafontaine, Kedoh Hill, Cameron Holding and Jarrett Toll, are the newcomers amongst 27 players in the midst of orientation camp as the Rush prepares for the upcoming 2011 National Lacrosse League season.
General Manager and Head Coach Derek Keenan has another competitive training camp underway, and all four of his newcomers have fit in well during the first two weekends of drills, information sessions and one pre-season scrimmage.
"All the draft picks I thought played really well," said Keenan, after Edmonton's 15-11 win over the Rochester Knighthawks Dec. 4.
"Obviously, Kedoh Hill showed a lot of talent and our transition game and defensive game was outstanding."
Hill fired three goals in the contest, while the remaining trio contributed to move the ball up in transition and hold the 'Hawks to only five first-half goals. Scoring goals is what Hill is good at. The six-foot, 145-pounder is a lanky, yet, tough sharpshooter with a nose for the net and plenty of skills on display.
"He's been phenomenal," said Keenan, of the third-round selection. "There wasn't a guy on the floor not shaking their head after watching him, saying, 'Wow this kid can really play'."
Hill, the 29th overall pick in 2010, earned a rep as one of the top junior players. And while making the adjustments from junior ball to pro can be difficult for rookies, Hill and the Rush rookies, however, have been accepted well into Rush organization.
"I've got a lot of help from many of the players on the team," Hill said. "They're good supporters and it just brought up my confidence. Being new here, I didn't really know anyone and they just brought me in and it was a really good feeling to get that response from the team."
"They've opened up their arms, for sure," said Lafontaine of the Rush veterans.
"I've had a lot of help from these guys. If they see something I can work on, they tell me and I want that."
Lafontaine brings another athletic and skilled player to Edmonton's transition game that already boasts Brodie Merrill and Scott Stewart. And given Keenan's focus on transition play, there's no better combo for Lafontaine to study the high-tempo, up and down style of lacrosse from, than Merrill and Stewart. "Just learning from them is amazing," Lafontaine said. "These guys are great players. "I want to learn from them and pick their brains and improve in every aspect of the game and be more like them."
Keenan's top selection from the 2010 class also expects to use his speed, hustle and athleticism in his role for a team that thrives in transition. "Moving the ball is what I can give this team," said the third round pick. "I can run the ball and I'm pretty strong defensively, too."
Now, for another versatile player, look no further than fourth-round selection Cameron Holding. Holding revels in tremendous fitness to succeed at both ends of the floor, as well in his transition role. The six-foot-one, 21-year-old, is an attack man in the field game and a vacuum for loose balls, while his dangerous outside shot keeps goalies busy. His conditioning at the Rush camp, however, is unlike most newcomers to the pro game.
"His fitness level was incredible," Keenan said. "Typically the younger guys are not as fit as that, but he set a record in our testing."
"As soon as I got drafted, I kicked everything up in gear," Holding said of his ramped-up regimen. "I hired a trainer and really wanted to be ready for camp. Now, I just want to keep working hard."
"Anytime the ball hits the ground, I want it back on my stick and up the floor," he said. "There's no secret to it. Just being a workhorse. If you want that ball, you'll get it. It just a matter of working hard enough for it. It comes down to beating the other players to the ball and fighting hard for it."
Jarrett Toll, a five-foot-eleven defensive stalwart, has also impressed. The 195-pounder also mans the blue line for the University of Alberta Golden Bears hockey team, bringing along his solid defensive play and strong leadership qualities to the premier university program, after five seasons with the WHL's Tri-City Americans.
Being a two-sport athlete allowed Toll's stock to drop slightly at the NLL draft and Keenan was elated Toll was still on the board in the fifth round. Although the Golden Bears come first for Toll, he's been at Rush camp looking to earn a spot at defender for the Black and Silver, "I really like to play defense and get the transition game going," he said. "That's my goal this year. I'd like to use my speed to my advantage and I want to be a threat from the 'D' gate, too."
Toll and the trio of rookies have the final stage of training camp Dec. 17-19, to impress, before Keenan trims the roster down to 23 players in preparation for the 2011 season. However, with such a talented group of rookies, Keenan expects a few players to remain with the organization, in its pursuit of the Champion's Cup.
"Bringing a couple of young guys along is important to us," he said. "Look at last year. We had contributions from a lot of guys, (Brett) Mydske, (Corey) Small, (Scott) Tinning and (Dane) Stevens." That is good news for this year's incoming players.
Rush training camp resumes on December 17 in Leduc, Alberta. Keenan will name the Rush team captain and assistant captain on that date, followed by an evening session of training camp. Visit www.edmontonrush.com for more information.