A common sight at Vancouver Stealth games: Joel McCready (left) and Tyler Digby congratulate Rhys Duch (#10) after another goal. Earlier this season, Duch set the Stealth franchise record for all-time points. And since entering the National Lacrosse League in 2009, only one player has more points than Duch in that time.

A common sight at Vancouver Stealth games: Joel McCready (left) and Tyler Digby congratulate Rhys Duch (#10) after another goal. Earlier this season, Duch set the Stealth franchise record for all-time points. And since entering the National Lacrosse League in 2009, only one player has more points than Duch in that time.

‘We saw something special in him’

Rhys Duch all-time leading scorer for Vancouver Stealth franchise

While Rhys Duch loves the game of lacrosse, there are days he wonders why.

“Sometimes on Sundays I ask myself that question,” Duch said with a laugh.

All kidding aside, the game really is his passion.

“It is a very intense sport and I love the competitiveness of it,” he said.

Growing up in Victoria, Duch was the type of kid who was constantly playing something.

“My parents got me involved in every sport,” he said. “You name it, I played it as a kid. They just exposed me to everything and then I chose what I liked best and lacrosse was it.”

He also followed the family bloodlines into the game as his dad Mike and uncles Mitch and Arch all played in the Western Lacrosse Association with the senior A Victoria Shamrocks.

When it came time to choose a sport to focus on Duch was 13.

Until that point, hockey and lacrosse were his primary sports but hockey season was conflicting with field lacrosse, so the choice was made.

“I saw opportunity in (lacrosse) scholarship-wise,” Duch explained.

“You can’t really plan your future around being a professional as an athlete unless you are Sidney Crosby or someone like that, where it is pretty much a guarantee.”

Duch earned a scholarship to play field lacrosse at New York’s Stony Brook University, and continued his ascent in the sport.

A prolific scorer at every level, Duch was the third overall pick in the 2008 National Lacrosse League draft, getting selected by the San Jose Stealth — who moved to Langley and became the Vancouver Stealth in 2014.

Earlier this season, the 28-year-old became the organization’s all-time points leader, surpassing Gary Rosyski’s 530 points in his 132-game career with the franchise.

Rosyski still leads in goals with 250 versus Duch’s 236.

But Duch is loathe to discuss 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 while playing at a high level.

In his first six seasons in the NLL — all with the Stealth — he has scored no less than 33 goals and 79 points. Through the first five games of this season, he already has a dozen goals and 32 points, which ties him for second in league scoring and put him on pace for a career-high 115 points.

Entering the season, he had 224 goals and 520 points in 95 games with only Calgary’s Dane Dobbie (232 goals) having scored more over the past six seasons while Rochester’s Dan Dawson (551 points) is the lone player to have more points in that span.

“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.”

“We saw something special in him,” said Doug Locker, the Stealth president and general manager.

He was the team’s assistant general manager when they drafted Duch.

“He has the proven track record at junior and at Stony Brook, as a natural goal scorer,” Locker added.

And Duch did not disappoint, winning the NLL rookie of the year award in 2009 and still holding the league record for rookie assists (54) and points (89).

“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 last season, when he still lead 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 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 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.

Offence 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 defence,” 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.”