EDMONTON - There is no question Kyle Rubisch is an elite defender in the National Lacrosse League.
But the third-year NLLer would reach a level all his own if he can defend one more thing this year — his title as the league’s top defensive player that he earned in 2012.
And, after leading a defensive unit on a Rush squad that, along with goalies Aaron Bold and Brodie MacDonald, allowed a West Division-low of just 170 goals-against in the regular season, he is certainly in the running to do just that.
“I’m not sure on that, there are so many good defenders out there, let alone on our team,” said the six-foot-two, 220-pound native of Brampton, Ont., who works with a distribution company when he’s not spending his weekends dominating the defensive zone. “It would be a great honour, but we’ll see. There’s a bunch of great guys in this league.”
But what separates Rubisch from the rest of the best is his uncanny ability to force turnovers — a statistical category he led all season by a full country mile.
“First off, it’s our system that’s put in place. We have a pressure defensive unit that allows us to get out on our guys and pressure,” said Rubisch, whose 44 forced turnovers easily eclipsed the 28 earned by the player with the second most in the league, which happens to be teammate Brett Mydske. “It allows us, individually, to get out and focus on our guys because we know that we’re going to have a backup from another defender.
“So you wouldn’t be able to get the turnovers unless you had that support coming your way in case you make a mistake or whatever.”
But for Rush head coach and GM Derek Keenan, who named Rubisch his team MVP for 2013 following last week’s season finale, there is not denying Rubisch’s impact.
“There are a lot of good defensive players in our league and he’s probably at the top,” said Keenan, who brought Rubisch on board with the second overall pick of the 2011 dispersal draft following his all-rookie season and the disbanding of the Boston Blazers. “And for a guy who’s 24 years old, it speaks volumes for his commitment to the game and certainly his commitment to our team, as well.
“He’s been really good and he just brings a lot of intensity. He never takes a shift off and he sets a real good example for the rest of our group — right through the offence and the defence.”
And while the Rush offence has taken a major leap forward this season, scoring a franchise-record 203 goals, Edmonton’s defence continues to be the backbone of the team’s success.
“Every guy on our defensive unit has accepted the system and bought into it,” Rubisch said. “We’ve got guys with their individual talents and strengths and everyone brings a different dynamic.
“When everyone’s playing the same system and working together, it makes things pretty easy.”
After leading the Boston Blazers with 143 loose balls and 20 forced turnovers in 2011, Rubisch was named to the NLL’s all-rookie team before being picked up by the Rush in last year’s dispersal draft. In 2012, Rubisch led the league with 43 forced turnovers on his way to being named the NLL’s top defender and has yet to miss a single game.