With the National Lacrosse League’s leading point-getter, Connor Fields, out of the Rochester Knighthawks lineup tonight, it makes for the perfect opportunity for others step up. Especially for a player like Thomas Vela, who was drafted by the Knighthawks 25th overall in the 2022 NLL Entry Draft and is set to make his NLL debut tonight.
“It’s a dream come true since I was a little kid, so I’m pretty excited for tonight,” Vela smiled when asked about the excitement heading into his first game as a pro.
Vela was impressive for the Knighthawks in preseason play. Though he only played in the first half of the final preseason tune-up against the Panther City Lacrosse Club, Vela did appear in all three preseason matchups, leading the team with eight points on two goals and six assists.
“His grit,” started Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen when asked what really impressed him about Vela’s play over training camp. “For a little guy, he’s inside, he’s outside, but he’s also a very smart player. He (Vela) knows how to better put himself in the position to be available off ball as well as he’s able to control the ball and carry for us a little bit.”
A native of Burnaby, British Columbia, Vela split the 2022 season at the junior and senior level with the Burnaby Lakers as well as brief stints with both the Langley Thunder and New Westminster Salmonbellies.
With Burnaby of the British Columbia Lacrosse Association, Vela led the league with 36 goals and 71 points and was tied for fifth with his 35 assists in 14 games. Vela also went on to combine for 12 points on seven goals and five assists over six Senior ‘A’ games between Langley, New Westminster and Burnaby of the Western Lacrosse Association. For his efforts, Vela was named co-winner of the Bob Reid Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement on the floor and was selected to the 2022 BCJALL All-Star Team.
“Expect to have a good night and hopefully help in any way I can. Either put it in the back of the net or just getting guys open, whatever I can do,” commented Vela when asked what he’s expecting of himself tonight.
And coach is expecting Vela to bring the energy.
Hasen then finished with, “A little bit of energy and, like I say, hopefully he’s going to capitalize and make the most of this opportunity, but we just expect him to jump on the floor and just do what he’s going to do, which is move the ball.”
Tonight’s 7 p.m. matchup between the Knighthawks and Panther City will be the lone meeting of the season between the two teams and will be carried live on Big 107.3 FM as well as ESPN+.