Preseason for the Rochester Knighthawks was the perfect opportunity for any newcomers to make an impact heading into the 2022-23 National Lacrosse League campaign. Especially for a player like Thomas Vela, who was draft by the Knightawks 25th overall in the 2022 NLL Entry Draft.
“Just make a good impression…do my job, play my game and don’t change it because, obviously, I was drafted for a reason and will help the team in any way I can,” explained Vela when asked what expectations he had for himself when training camp first began.
Though he only played in the first half of the final tune-up against Panther City, Vela did appear in all three preseason matchups, leading the team with eight points on two goals and six assists.
Not bad for the rookie forward who is looking to play an offensive role for the Knighthawks this year.
“I thought I was doing a good job moving picks, getting guys open, creating opportunities for myself and others.”
As any rookie would entering their first pro season, Vela is determined to establish within the Knighthawks offensive structure, but for now, willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win and be successful.
“Just as a role player for this year, for sure. Hopefully to grow into something more down the line, but I’m a young guy in the league and I got a lot to learn, so I’m ready for that.”
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 35assists 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.
As Vela is headed into his first season in the NLL, he’s emphasized playing with confidence as a strong focal point.
“Just confidence going in there and not being scared…confidence is very big.”
Vela then finished with, “There’s always a few nerves going up against the best, but if you’re not nervous then you’re not ready.”
Vela gets his first taste of NLL action this weekend as the Knighthawks officially embark on their third NLL season this Saturday, Dec. 3 on the road against the Georgia Swarm as part of the league’s Face-Off Weekend before returning home to host the Toronto Rock on Opening Knight on Saturday, Dec. 10 at Segar & Sciortino Field.
All 18 Knighthawks game this season will once again be available on Big 107.3 and ESPN+.