Archive for Dylan McIlrath
Injuries are a common occurrence in hockey. Whether it’s bumps and bruises, broken bones, or torn ligaments, they happen all the time and teams around the league deal with injuries regularly. For the Rangers, they have two players on their blue line that have been dealing with injuries. Dan Girardi has a fractured knee cap, and Kevin Klein has a broken thumb.
Klein’s injury is the most recent, having occurred last week. He missed exactly one game before returning to the lineup in Philadelphia. Girardi’s been dealing with the knee cap injury for most of the season. Neither missed significant time, even though Dylan McIlrath, a former first round pick that the Rangers have spent five years developing, is sitting in the press box for his chance.
But are they really performing better injured than a healthy McIlrath? By the numbers, McIlrath is deserving of more time, and he’s outplaying most of his blue line brethren as well.
The Rangers will be without defenseman Kevin Klein for the foreseeable future with a broken thumb, and the injury came at the worst possible time. Klein has been arguably the Rangers’ best defenseman, and absolutely the best right-handed defenseman. Dylan McIlrath will get extended playing time, likely with Keith Yandle.
On paper, the drop-off from Klein to McIlrath shouldn’t be all that terrible. McIlrath actually has better possession numbers, but it’s a small sample. But from what we’ve seen, he’s been able to make the smart first pass out of the zone and manages his gap control very well, which helps hide his weaker skating.
The Rangers have a right-defense problem. Kevin Klein is solid and by far the best defenseman on that side. Aside from him, the Rangers aren’t really sure what they are getting on a nightly basis from Dan Boyle, Dan Girardi, and Dylan McIlrath. The cause of inconsistency varies by player, but inconsistency is still inconsistency.
Boyle is still a solid possession player and his presence opens things up on the powerplay. However he is old and he’s slowing down considerably. He got torched by a Caps player on Sunday to negate an icing, and has been slow to the puck relatively consistently all year. That’s by no fault of his own, he lost a step.
Girardi has had a terrible season, and a fractured kneecap probably isn’t helping matters. Injured or not, he’s been a liability on the ice. McIlrath’s inconsistencies are more easily explained, as he’s a rookie. He will make mistakes. But those mistakes will become fewer in number as he gets more playing time. He should be getting groomed for regular minutes next season as well.
One of the many questions coming into the season, once the roster was finalized, was how Dylan McIlrath was going to fare in the NHL. The former first round pick fell from grace rather quickly, as questions about skating filled column inches, blog pages, and Twitter feeds. Folks were calling him a bust as late as this past draft. He was by far the biggest question mark coming into the season.
Fast forward to the beginning of December, and folks are clamoring for him to be an everyday player in the lineup at the expense of someone else on the blue line. While the conversation among fans has shifted towards who he can replace, and that conversation takes many forms, the one conversation that appears to have ended is whether or not he belongs in the NHL. He may not be a top pairing defenseman, but McIlrath has proven he belongs.
There are many different ways to develop prospects but are the Rangers – and coach Alain Vigneault – mishandling Emerson Etem and Dylan McIlrath? Sometimes a team needs to let a player grab a regular spot even before he’s earned his role. Maybe the Rangers need to lengthen the leash for Etem and McIlrath while the season is still early.
The Rangers have two unique prospects on their hands in Etem and McIlrath. A team not known for their physicality, the Rangers could surely benefit from Etem and/or McIlrath establishing themselves in the rotation. Etem has one of the biggest bodies up front for the Rangers and has speed the team would love to see more of. McIlrath of course, is a massive presence on the blueline who is comfortably the biggest, most physical defenseman the Rangers have on the backend. The problem is, neither player has been able to display their physical talents nearly enough. Part of that reason is opportunity.
Rangers special teams costing the Rangers games – already.
Some things remain the same? The Rangers powerplay is already costing the team games. It’s possible to win the Stanley Cup without a functioning powerplay. Boston did it a few years back but it’s certainly a lot easier to win the holy grail – and more realistic – to have at least a competent unit. The Rangers don’t have one, yet they have the personnel where it should rank at least in the top half of the league. A unit that features Nash, Yandle, Stepan and Kreider should be better. There is no movement, there is a lack of willingness to shoot. It’s only five games in but the inept powerplay could undermine the Rangers if Alain Vigneault can’t inject some life into the unit.
Chris usually gets to have all the fun with these musings posts, but my thoughts are all over the place with so many interesting developments in the first four games of the season. So here are some of my early impressions:
- It seems like entering each year now, there’s buzz about how the upcoming season will be the Rangers’ last real chance at the Cup and the window is rapidly closing. But that’s really a bunch of baloney. The end of this run could come, and it could come suddenly – but if it does, it will only because Henrik Lundqvist has finally fallen from his perch atop the mountain of NHL goalies. Four games into this season, that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon. Lundqvist has responded to coach Alain Vigneault’s challenge to start the year better with a sparkling stretch of unbelievable saves. Lundqvist’s reflexes look faster than ever, and if he’s actually able to continue this hot streak for the first few weeks and months when Lundqvist usually struggles, then you might as well hand him the Vezina Trophy now.
- One of my biggest problems with trading Carl Hagelin was that I thought his speed was essential to the team’s identity. Bu this year’s version of the Blueshirts plays as frenetic as ever. There’s still speed to burn up and down the lineup and it has to be a nightmare to defend.
PP1: Nash-Brassard-Zuccarello, Yandle-Klein
PP2: Kreider-Hayes-Miller, McDonagh-Stepan
There are a few things to note here. First is that McIlrath needs to play. Second is that Boyle is 39 years old, so getting him some extra rest isn’t a bad thing. Third is that, despite what some click-bait articles on the internet may lead you to believe, Boyle hasn’t been bad. He’s been, if anything unspectacular in his first three games.
Three conference finals and a Stanley Cup appearance is no mean feat, whatever franchise you are. The Rangers have had a strong run over the past half decade or so; they have done it despite the ongoing need to develop young talent, spend to the cap to retain their own and recruit the biggest names on the market. Despite the absence of a Stanley Cup, the Rangers have balanced youth and (relative) success very well. The current roster has a young core and even the most key players have plenty of miles left. With this week’s roster decisions it appears the Rangers are continuing with their dedication to youth.
This week’s announcement that 2010 top ten draft pick Dylan McIlrath made the Rangers opening night roster over cheap and flexible roster part Raphael Diaz wasn’t just the right decision (McIlrath had consistently been the better of the two all preseason) but it was another example of the Rangers dedication to youth. Oh how times have changed since the 1997 – 2003 period (what some fans call the lost years). Factor in Oscar Lindberg having likely played himself into the opening night line-up and another season has arrived where the Rangers have managed to inject youth into the line-up with at least two rookies.
He’s not Vladimir Tarasenko and he’s not Cam Fowler. To this point, Dylan McIlrath’s professional career pales in comparison to those other 2010 first-round picks selected just after him. But to his credit, McIlrath is finally on the cusp of being an NHLer.
When McIlrath was selected 10th overall, he was a feared pugilist and open ice hitter with a grand total of 24 WHL points in his draft year and 19 fighting majors to his name. The Rangers drafted him for being a tough guy, with the dancing vision of a future Chris Pronger-like player no doubt dancing through their heads. Read More→