What does the future hold for McIlrath? (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
When the Rangers made their Michael Del Zotto for Kevin Klein swap with the Predators, they gave up on a frustrating offensive talent and went with the less able but more reliable stay at home, physical type. What they also did was commit to a player whose size and physical ability is likely to be on the Rangers blue line for several seasons. They also committed to someone that inadvertently may be a road block for one of the franchise’s key draft picks, Dylan McIlrath.
While Klein doesn’t possess the same potential snarl or size as McIlrath, the additional four years (at $2.9 million per year) means the Rangers have solidified their third pairing with the type of player they’ve needed for what seems like generations. Is there still room for McIlrath? With his skating ability still his biggest question mark, Mcllrath’s future is at least partly dependent with how Klein acclimatises to New York, with the initial solid performances promising.
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After Michael Del Zotto was traded last week, many folks in the Ranger Twittersphere turned again to the decision to draft Dylan McIlrath over Cam Fowler as a franchise-crippling blow. Many believe that the Rangers passed on drafting Fowler because they thought they already had a very similar player in Del Zotto and Fowler would have been redundant. Meanwhile, McIlrath was a very unusual commodity that could fill a long-standing hole, so the team happily selected him at No. 10. Of course, Del Zotto never met expectations in New York and Fowler is enjoying a breakout year in his fourth NHL season, so Rangers fans are filled with regret.
The 2010 draft has become one of the biggest gripes among Ranger fans in recent years, but it’s time to let it go. Whether you believe McIlrath will turn into a second-pairing D-man or not, it’s hard to argue at this point that the Blueshirts’ brass didn’t make a mistake. So did many other teams that year, so do many teams every other year.
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With the holiday roster freeze approaching at midnight tonight, the Rangers made a trio of roster moves to set themselves up for the next week. They returned forward Arron Asham and defenseman Dylan McIlrath to the AHL. They also recalled forward J.T. Miller for the third time this season. Hopefully the third time is a charm for Miller and the Rangers, who desperately need some form of consistency in the lineup.
A lot has been made about the coach’s apparent decision to sit Dylan McIlrath tonight against the Penguins. I understand both sides of the argument. If the kid is up in the NHL, he should play. But the kid has some glaring holes in his game, and putting him up against the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Crosby’s isn’t exactly the best matchup for someone who has trouble skating. Then again, neither is Justin Falk.
My thought on this: If the kid isn’t going to play 8-10 minutes a night, then send him back to the AHL. AV is a fan of having kids sit in the press box to get a bird’s-eye view of the system he runs, but McIlrath has less than 100 pro games under his belt. He needs to develop the raw parts of his game in the AHL with top minutes. If he is going to play 8-10 minutes a night, then keep him here, because Falk sure isn’t getting the job done.
One more bit on McIlrath: He is far from NHL ready. I understand the need for a bruiser and a right-handed shot, but the kid has a few glaring holes that need to be fixed by Jeff Beukeboom in Hartford. The kid has made tremendous strides this year after a gruesome knee injury ruined last season. I’m big on this kid, but rushing him to fit a need doesn’t help in the long-term.
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Rarity: A Ranger goal celebration. AP Photo/Mike Strasinger
With the Rangers seemingly in a tail spin and with the injuries mounting it really isn’t time to panic no matter how bleak it may seem at present. That said, changes do need to be made.
The Rangers have an opportunity to insert the likes of JT Miller, Danny Kristo and Dylan McIlrath now and give them consistent ice time and at no real risk. All of the aforementioned cannot do worse than the likes of Benoit Pouliot, Taylor Pyatt and (this season at least) any combination of Falk, Del Zotto and John Moore. If all they achieve this season is to become role players – or even that they simply avoid being liabilities – then it’s almost already an upgrade and developmental time long term.
With the team generating little to no offense, inconsistent (at best) defense and with spaces to fill thanks to an injury list that could backfill a local hospital there is an opportunity to exploit. Alain Vigneault has bemoaned the lack of appropriate player types and perhaps that’s true but is that because he’s simply icing the wrong type or is it that he hasn’t got them within the entire organisation? It’s time to find out.
Barring a disaster of epic proportions, Vigneault has time on his side so it would surely benefit him to look at the prospects available. He’s not getting fired this season unless the Rangers go on a winless streak that would threaten riots in New York.
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In some surprising news, the Rangers have recalled defenseman Dylan McIlrath. McIlrath is everything the Rangers need at the moment: a right handed physical defenseman. This is a move that a lot of people wanted, but we at BSB speculated might be a bit of a rush move since most reports are that McIlrath may not be ready at the moment.
The move signals a few things. First is that a style change is coming, as AV has recognized the vanilla nature of this team and a need for serious grit and toughness on the blue line. McIlrath has made major strides this year, and while many expected he would get his cuppa this season, no one expected it would be this soon. This is the first step for AV in adjusting his philosophy to the team that exists around him.
The biggest concern with recalling McIlrath is his skating ability and his defensive presence. He had a very unimpressive training camp, but has improved steadily while in Hartford. If he can continue his development on the big stage, then this is a solid move. If not, then it could be a sign of desperation. Regardless, McIlrath was getting his shot at some point this season. It just so happened to be sooner than we expected.
Alain Vigneault commented after the Rangers’ turgid performance in Tampa on Monday that “Nobody touched a soul”, referring to his team’s lack of physicality. This has been an underlying issue for large parts of the season so far. In the mean time, Michael Del Zotto continues to be, at best, inconsistent (and the subject of countless traded rumours in the media) and John Moore also has yet to find his game consistently. As you can see, there is plenty of room for improvement on the blueline.
While the Rangers forward unit appears to be more settled with the demotion of JT Miller (who simply needs playing time at this stage), despite the relatively decent performance of the blueline corps, the Rangers appear in need of an injection of physicality. Is it about time they took a look at Dylan McIlrath?
Mcllrath’s development curve is trending in the right direction. While in Hartford the big, bruising 1st round pick has begun to add an offensive dimension to his game but perhaps more appropriate is that he also leagues the American Hockey League in penalty minutes (with 102 penalty minutes in just 18 games) and if you check the box scores regularly enough, you’ll have noticed a few majors along the way.
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McIlrath is one of several prospects that may be considered soon
The Rangers entered the regular season with multiple inconveniences behind them, so the horrid start to the regular season does come with some sort of asterisk attached to the team record. With a long road trip, multiple key injuries, a bloated (but necessary) preseason roster, and a new system all to deal with it is clear to see that the Rangers are well behind the eight ball four games in.
Despite all the issues Alain Vigneault and his team has had to deal with, and despite it being four games in, there has been no sign of progress and many of the same players are making repeated mistakes. Is it too early for Alain Vigneault to make an example out of a player or two?
It just so happens that while the Rangers struggle so horribly at both ends of the rink, many Ranger prospects (deemed not ready for the NHL) are off to terrific starts to the season down in the AHL. Danny Kristo has five points in three games, seven shots, and two powerplay goals already.
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Best case: Johnson is an adequate depth defender and is significantly better than Stu Bickel in spot duty.
Worst case: Johnson is no better than Bickel and the Rangers are back where they were last year if top-six blueliners get hurt.
Best case: Stralman continues to be an unsung hero for the Blueshirts and finally earns the attention he deserves with a standout campaign, including some gaudy power play numbers.
Worst case: Stralman’s hold on the #6 job loosens and Justin Falk pushes him for playing time. Read more »
When will McIlrath be intimidating NHL forwards?
The Rangers drafted Dylan McIlrath 10th overall in 2010 and ever since, media and fans have been waiting for his arrival. While McIlrath is now completely healthy and at Rangers camp looking to make the team there doesn’t appear space in the defensive unit even though his style is an absolute need.
The Rangers are blessed with a strong top four when Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto are all fit and able. With Anton Stralman a solid depth option it leaves a whole raft of ifs and buts to scrap it out for the 6th and 7th defensive spots. McIlrath will be fighting it out with Aaron Johnson, Danny Syvret, Justin Falk, John Moore and even the likes of Stu Bickel for a roster spot.
The problem here is not ability. John Moore aside, McIlrath has much more upside than any of the other options who are realistically in the frame for the top six. McIlrath needs game time. The Rangers top four will eat up the vast majority of ice time and given his lengthy absence last year the last thing the Rangers want to do to with McIlrath is curb – or stall – his development by offering up five or six minute cameos.
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