Rookie phenom opening doors

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:21 AM ET

Given his amazing showing this season, Ryan Boyle is the consensus favourite to be named the National Lacrosse League's rookie of the year.

However, given their importance, the San Jose Stealth forward's accomplishments may be worth much more than just an award.

Despite the fact eight of the NLL's 10 teams are in the U.S., fewer than 30% of the league's players are American and fewer still are high draft picks.

That could change over the coming years thanks to Boyle's play.

Teams have been reluctant to gamble on many top U.S. college field lacrosse players in the past because few have been able to make the jump to the indoor game and flourish.

The 24-year-old Boyle was taken third overall in the 2005 entry draft and has exploded onto the scene, scoring 14 goals and 26 assists in 10 games to sit second in team scoring behind only veteran Gary Rosyski.

Boyle acknowledges his play could have an impact of the future drafting strategies.

"Yeah, I try to be a bit of a trailblazer," said Boyle, whose Stealth take on the Calgary Roughnecks tonight at the 'Dome (7:30 p.m.). "That's fair to say. I definitely want to open some doors for some American players coming out in the future and just kind of serve notice to the league you can take a chance on an American. If you put a little effort, teach them some things and give them some chances -- especially in games -- there is a reward at the end of it.

"Hopefully, I've opened some eyes and some other teams will take some American players higher in the draft in the years to come."

The 5-ft. 11-in., 185-lb. Boyle, who was named the league's January rookie of the month, graduated from Princeton where he played attack for four years on his way to a degree in psychology.

He was drafted by the Philadelphia Barrage of the Major League Lacrosse professional field loop.

The Baltimore native won a championship with the Barrage last summer and made it known he wanted to play in the NLL this winter, despite the fact he'd never played indoor ball before.

The Stealth took a chance and drafted Boyle higher than most teams had him pegged and were rewarded with play even better than they had expected, admitted San Jose head coach and GM Johnny Mouradian.

"The one thing we've been pleasantly surprised with is his goal scoring," said Mouradian, whose team selected Syracuse standout Mike Powell in the same draft, although Powell has yet to show much interest in the NLL.

"In Princeton, he was a known assist/playmaker and in high school, he was a quarterback and point guard. So, we knew he would see the floor well and set up goals but he was going to the goal real hard right off the bat and creating a lot of opportunities for himself."

After trading away Josh Sanderson, losing Dan Teat and Mike Regan sitting out the first half of the season, the Stealth's offence was decimated, leaving the door wide open for Boyle to get more floor time than the average rookie right off the bat.

It paid off.

"We started playing him right away because we had such a young offence," said Mouradian.

"He was given the green light right away. He had the chance to play and see the ball a lot. I think that was very helpful for Ryan."

So helpful, in fact, he was named a West Division all-star for the league's showcase tilt in Calgary Feb. 26, which came as a surprise to Boyle.

"I didn't know what to expect coming into this league," said Boyle.

"I didn't know what to expect when I went to college. I didn't know what to expect when I went to pro outdoor and I didn't know what to expect when I came here. I try to let those things sort themselves out and I just play. Luckily, things have worked out well."

Still, despite his solid play so far, Boyle said he's still adjusting to the indoor game and its many nuances.

"I still wouldn't say I'm comfortable yet," said Boyle.

"I'm still learning. I'm not totally instinctual when I'm out there. But every time I go out on the floor, I feel more comfortable. Every game I'm settling in and adjusting."


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