Great mechanics

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

Calgary Roughnecks defender Ryan McNish doesn't score many goals but he may complete a hat-trick for the Riggers this season.

The 23-year-old's solid play so far has made him an early favourite for the National Lacrosse League's All-Rookie team.

Last season, defender Taylor Wray was named to the squad -- as well as being named rookie of the year -- and the season before, forward Lewis Ratcliff made the all-rookie list.

McNish, who will take to the floor tonight at the Saddledome against the Anaheim Storm (7 p.m., Ch. 27), admits he'd be honoured to receive the nod but that's not his priority.

"If I get chosen to the all-rookie team, great," said the Winnipeg native. "But I just want the team to win. To bring another Champion's Cup back to Calgary."

That answer could be viewed as a token reply. But coming from McNish, you know it's the truth. His no-nonsense approach to life -- outside of his sizable frame and speed -- is likely his biggest attribute as a lacrosse player.

That mindset comes from his day job as a corporal in the Canadian Forces based at CFB Edmonton. McNish joined the military right out of high school and his chosen profession has bred a certain character.

"If the coach wants you to go out there and do something," said McNish, "you go out and do it. You do what you're asked to and you don't complain.

"I know my role. I'm a rookie this year and whatever I have to do help the team, I will. If I'm not needed in the lineup that night, that's fine. As long as we win. That's just the way I am."

McNish, a mechanic who works on Griffin CH146 helicopters as part of the 408 Tactical Helicopter squadron, has brought his soldier's mentality to the Riggers dressing room, said Calgary head coach Chris Hall.

"He's in incredible condition and, as you know from his military background, he's a 'yes sir, no sir' person and a 'what can I do for you, sir' type of person," said Hall.

"He's a great team guy. He comes to the rink with an incredible amount of enthusiasm every night. If he's not in the lineup, it doesn't matter. He contributes in any way he can to make the practices or make the game-day environment better for the team."

Making McNish's play even more impressive is the fact he played only one year of junior A and then moved on to play senior B in Edmonton when he was stationed there.

The transition to the NLL for junior standouts and senior veterans can be daunting, let alone for a player with McNish's limited experience. The 6-ft. 2-in., 230-lb. righty, who was drafted by the Toronto Rock, admits he heard lots of criticism when he tried out for the Roughnecks this year.

"There was a lot of that," said McNish, who has played four of the team's seven games this season and now holds a starting job. "But I don't let things like that bother me. I just go out there and try to prove I belong here and give it my all every shift."

Hall said he's never doubted McNish, who got into his first NLL fight with heavyweight Tim O'Brien in last Friday's loss to Toronto.

"The play of Ryan McNish is not particularly a surprise to me," said Hall. "I always thought he had the capability to be a good player in this league. He's showing he can play at this level.

"Ryan is a real force. He's a project for us. We've been kind of following Ryan for three or four years now and really have strongly felt he had tremendous potential to be a very, very impactful defender in this league."


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