Dylan McIlrath had a tough preseason for the New York Rangers. He made rookie mistakes and sometimes looked overmatched. That kind of stuff can be expected of a 21-year-old but the tenth overall selection of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft looks like he is applying lessons learned to his play with the Hartford Wolf Pack.
The six-foot-five, 215 pound defenseman is producing early in the AHL season and has three goals and two assists and 45 penalty minutes in 12 games for the Wolf Pack this season. His three goals are his first in the AHL and are a sign that McIlrath might be finally coming around and using his heavy shot to drive the puck on the net.
While he will never be an offensive-minded defenseman, McIlrath has the ability to at least contribute on the offensive end by using his heavy slap shot to send the puck in on net and hopefully set up a rebound, or, if all goes right, score a goal. McIlrath’s real value comes on the defensive end where he uses his size to clear opposing forwards and punishes them for daring to tread in his territory. He also has a willingness to drop the gloves and a toughness that will be very useful to the Rangers in the future.
That future might be coming a lot sooner with rumors flying around the NHL that the Rangers and Edmonton Oilers are working out a deal that would send Nail Yakupov to the Rangers. There is a chance one of the Rangers’ defensemen like Dan Girardi could be included in any deal for Yakupov. There is also a chance McIlrath could find himself part of the deal as well.
Either way, McIlrath should be getting his chance in the NHL very soon. If he comes up with the Rangers he could become an instant asset, especially with his toughness and willingness to stand up for teammates. Of course, head coach Alain Vigneault will have to learn to live with the mistakes that are certainly going to accompany him to the NHL.
One way or another it looks like McIlrath will finally get his shot in the NHL. It could be with the Rangers or as a member of the Oilers but if you believe the rumors he will be suiting up soon one way or another. Even if a trade doesn’t take place McIlrath is playing his way onto the short list of players the Rangers can call upon if there is an injury or ineffective play at the NHL level.