Rhys Duch has kept some pretty lofty company since entering the National Lacrosse League. Duch came into the NLL in 2009 after the Vancouver Stealth franchise drafted him third overall.
“We saw something special in him,” said Stealth president and general manager Doug Locker, who was part of the management team which selected him out of Stony Brook University and the Victoria Junior Shamrocks programs, where he played field and junior A lacrosse, respectively. “He has the proven track record at junior and at Stony Brook, as a natural goal scorer.”
And Duch has delivered, setting the league’s rookie scoring record with 89 points (35+54) in 2009 en route to winning the NLL Rookie of the Year Award, while continuing to post impressive offensive numbers since then. Since Duch first threw on the Stealth jersey, he has scored 240 goals and 558 points in 101 games. Only Calgary’s Dane Dobbie (245 goals in 97 games) and Rochester’s Dan Dawson (589 points in 105 games) have bettered those numbers in Duch’s time in the league.
Duch is also the Stealth’s all-time leader in points, having surpassed Gary Rosyski’s 530 points accumulated in 132 games. Duch broke it in game 97 earlier this season. He is also 11 goals away from surpassing Rosyski’s mark of 250 career goals.
Duch humbly deflected some of the credit when discussing the scoring record.
“It just means my teammates and coaches have put a lot of faith in me over the years to be the guy that is relied upon to get points,” he said. “We don’t play for personal accolades; that is not what you set out to achieve in your career, a bunch of personal stuff.
“Team victories mean more but it is nice to be recognized for your accomplishments.”
What stands out about Duch is his remarkable consistency. Duch has yet to dip below 33 goals and 79 points in any of his six seasons. Since joining the Stealth, he has scored no less than 33 goals and 79 points, and has finished in the top 10 in league scoring each season.
With 16 goals and 38 points through the first six games, Duch is on pace for 48 goals and 114 points, both of which would be career highs.
“Putting up numbers and producing is my job, that’s what I am paid to do,” Duch said. “To be up in those categories is just indicative of my job and (the team) putting me situations to be successful and take advantage of that.”
“Rhys really has been the heart and soul of the team from an offensive standpoint,” Locker said. “He is just one of those guys you can depend on to get 35 to 45 goals a year just because he is such a good shooter.”
“Even a bad year for him is 80 points,” Locker added referring to 2014, when he still led the Stealth and finished in the top 10 in the NLL.
Known for his goal-scoring prowess, Duch said there is no secret to his shot.
“The goalies are so good now it is all about deception and not being predictable,” he said. “It is about changing your shots up, whether it be in your release or where you place it.”
The other key to lighting the lamp is to not get complacent.
“It is about absorbing, never being satisfied,” he added. “You have to be constantly learning, goalies are getting better and you have to do the same.”
While success may drive some to have an ego, that is not the case with the Stealth sniper. Locker said Duch isn’t cocky, but rather is confident in his skills.
“Usually when you see the ball in Duch’s stick, he has a knack for rising up in those key situations,” he said. “He is a guy who consistently rises in big situations, pressure situations. He loves having the ball in those situations.”
For Duch, he is simply doing what he has always done: score goals. Offense has always been the key, ever since he was five years old.
“I was always getting in trouble for not putting a full effort in on defense,” he said with a chuckle. “I have always had an attraction to the excitement and — for lack of a better word — the glory that offensive guys get.”
By Gary Ahuja (@VanStealthBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Derek Stevens.