If Ben McIntosh isn’t a household name yet in the National Lacrosse League, the Edmonton Rush rookie will be soon enough. Drafted first overall in last year’s NLL Draft, McIntosh has so far lived up to the hype that comes with being the top selection.
Four games into his first season, McIntosh led the league in rookie scoring for goals (11), assists (10) and points (21). After an eight-point game last week against the New England Black Wolves- which tied Edmonton’s franchise record for most points in a game- McIntosh was the recipient of the NLL Rookie of the Month award for January.
“It’s a huge honor,” said McIntosh. “It’s nice to have a good start like that and be able to put up the points and fit in with the team so quickly.”
McIntosh may be new to the NLL but the Coquitlam, B.C. native has played a lot of lacrosse. Playing NCAA lacrosse at Drexel University, McIntosh was an Honorable Mention All-American and was named First Team All-CAA, finishing his career with 191 goals and 328 points.
In junior, McIntosh played with current Edmonton teammate Robert Church on the Coquitlam Adanacs. In just nine games, he scored 27 goals and collected 42 points and finished second in scoring in the Minto Cup.
Being drafted by the Rush was not the first time he was drafted first overall, as the Maple Ridge Burrards did the same in the WLA draft. In Maple Ridge, McIntosh put up 32 points (20+12) in 11 games. In the playoffs, his pace increased scoring 27 goals and assisting on 11 others in 11 games once again.
Most of his goal have come from down low against the crease, an area that works well with his game.
“I don’t shoot the ball a ton from the outside,” McIntosh said. “I more bang around in the middle, set picks and try to get open that way.”
For the Rush, the backdoor has been a deadly part of their offense for the last couple of seasons. Last year, Curtis Knight lead the team with 35 goals while set up in that position, but could not play this season due to a knee injury. McIntosh has fit right into that spot with all of his goals assisted by lefthanders- though two of them came from transition, one of many aspects of his game his coach doesn’t think he get’s enough credit for.
“Ben has been as advertised,”said Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan after last week’s game against the New England Black Wolves. “He obviously is a great goal scorer but I think he has a lot of other parts to his game that he doesn’t get credit for. He’s a very good athlete, he’s a very good play-maker, he’s responsible out there on transition and defense, he’s been great for us. He seems to get better every game. More confident within our offensive system, more confident with the guys he’s playing with.”
It’s rare for players drafted number one to be put onto a championship contender, but he’s ready to start his career with great expectations of himself and the team around him. His goal for this season is as straightforward and focused as a team could ask for: “To win the Champion’s Cup.”
Though his tenure with the Rush is just beginning, McIntosh has nothing but good things to say about the city and team that drafted him.
“I love [Edmonton]. I think we have such a good group of guys, we have a great coaching staff, and great management. Everything is great and everyone is really nice.”
At his current pace, McIntosh is set to put up 94 points, with 49 of them being goals. If his trend does continue, he would beat the rookie scoring record set by Vancouver Stealth forward Rhys Duch who recorded 89 points (35+54) in 2009. Paul Gait set the record for goals in a season by a rookie with 47 in the 1991 season, and did so in just 10 games. If McIntosh were to break those records, it would be with two more games played than Duch and eight more than Gait.
“Ben has the skill set to be one of the great off-ball players the NLL has ever seen,” said Keenan on the night McIntosh was drafted. “He has been an accomplished scorer at every level.”
Regardless of records, McIntosh has proved himself as a force to be reckoned with during his rookie season and for years to come.
Story by Mike Wilson (@RushBeat) for NLL.com.