Well that was a bit of a surprising pick for the Rangers, no? With players like Brandon Gormley, Cam Fowler, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Emerson Etem available, the Rangers shocked their fans, and many at the draft, by selecting tough guy Dylan McIlrath. I was at a wedding yesterday, but I got the news from a few texts (thanks guys), and many were pissed at this move.
I have the luxury of not reacting until this morning, as I could not react last night (it’s impossible to get worked up over a draft at a wedding). The two gaping holes on the Rangers right now is scoring and physical defensemen. With players like Artem Anisimov, Evgeny Grachev, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, and Ethan Werek already emerging as the top prospects in the system, the Rangers seem to be covered for the future with scoring.
Then you have to look at the defense. The Rangers have one of the best defenders in the league in Marc Staal. They have an up and coming star as an offensive defenseman in Michael Del Zotto. They have depth at both of those positions in Bobby Sanguinetti and Dan Girardi. What the Rangers truly lacked was a physical, mean, tough defenseman. In the system they have Ryan McDonagh, but that is really putting all your eggs into one basket.
In McIlrath, the Rangers get a tough son of a bitch. He is probably the most intimidating force in the WHL, and is a big deterrent for any opposing offensive players. In fact, he is so intimidating, that when teams play against McIlrath’s Moose Jaw Warriors, they find themselves playing an umbrella style of offense to avoid getting into a battle in front of the net. A battle in which McIlrath always wins. What amazes me more about this is that he is the most intimidating player in the WHL at the age of SEVENTEEN! I spelled that out for emphasis. The kid is 6’5, 215 at just 17 years old.
Another aspect that is often overlooked is that McIlrath’s offensive numbers, while not overpowering (7-17-24 in 65 games), are not too shabby for someone who does what he does with an offensively challenged team. He is working on his offensive game, and possesses a heavy shot. He is young, and can work on that booming shot to maybe add more offense. He’s never going to be an elite offensive player, but you don’t draft him to be that guy. You draft him to protect your most valuable player, Henrik Lundqvist.
The Rangers filled a gaping whole in their system by drafting McIlrath. Gordie Clark has never let us down since he took over drafting, and this was clearly the guy they were targeting. The fact that guys like Etem, Tarasenko, Fowler, and Gormley were passed over by Clark for McIlrath shows you how highly they thought of him. You may not like the pick, but put your trust in Gordie. The Rangers, in a few seasons, may have one of the best defensive units in the NHL with Staal, Girardi, Del Zotto, McIlrath, and McDonagh. Championship teams have the same formula: strong goaltending, strong defense, strong centers. The Rangers, or the farm system, now has the right tools and depth in all three areas. The future looks bright.