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Posts tagged: Dylan McIlrath

McIlrath joins Connecticut on ATO

As expected, Dylan McIlrath (1st-2010) will be joining the Connecticut Whale for their playoff push on an ATO. Whale’s Moose Jaw Warriors were eliminated from the WHL playoffs over the weekend by fellow Rangers’ prospect Michael St. Croix and the Edmonton Oil Kings.

McIlrath played with the Whale on an ATO last season as well. In two games, he finished with seven PIMs and a -1 rating.

St. Croix advances to WHL Finals

When we last checked in with the Rangers prospects, two of their highest ranking prospects were squaring off in the WHL’s Eastern Conference Finals. Michael St. Croix (4th-2011) of the Edmonton Oil Kings and Dylan McIlrath (1st-2010) of the Moose Jaw Warriors were about to match up in a series that definitely caught the attention of some Ranger fans. St. Croix lit up the WHL this year, finishing in the top ten in scoring, while McIlrath is a noted bruiser who plays a shut down game.

In the end, the scoring of St. Croix’s Oil Kings was too much for McIlrath’s Warriors, winning the series in five games. St. Croix had two goals and two assists in the five games, upping his playoff total to a line of 5-7-12 in 13 games.

As for McIlrath, he had one assist in the series. Even though scoring isn’t really McIlrath’s style, he still managed to rack up six assists in the 14 games he played in the postseason. He also finished with 12 PIMs and a +3 rating (although he was -4 in the Edmonton series).

In the immediate future, McIlrath might wind up joining the Connecticut Whale on an ATO, much like he did last season. As for St. Croix, he will be headed to the WHL Finals against Portland, with the winner advancing to the Memorial Cup.

Prospect Update: McIlrath vs. St. Croix in WHL Eastern Conference Finals

With the playoffs in full gear for both the Rangers and the Whale –and with the Whale adding a large number of CHL prospects for the playoff push– we have been neglecting the prospect coverage a bit here. But, good friend of the blog Jess Rubenstein of The Prospect Park has noted that two of the Rangers top prospects are about to square off in the WHL Eastern Conference Finals.

Dylan McIlrath (1st-2010) and his Moose Jaw Warriors will be facing Michael St. Croix (4th – 2011) and his Edmonton Oil Kings. McIlrath is a well noted bruiser and dominating physical presence that the Rangers drafted despite some more offensively talented players available. McIlrath started to prove doubters wrong this past preseason as he impressed almost every fan with a great few preseason games.

As for St. Croix, all he did was put up 105 points (45-60-105) this year with Edmonton. The WHL is a notoriously high scoring league, so his numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s rare that 18 year olds put up those numbers in the WHL. Usually those numbers are reserved for the older players in their age 20 or overage (21) season.

This is a great matchup for the Rangers prospects. It will give McIlrath an opportunity to show what he can do against top scorers. It will give St. Croix an opportunity to see what he can do against a top defender. It will also give the fans an opportunity to see if St. Croix is the real deal, or if his numbers are inflated.

It’s rare that the Rangers have two top prospects squaring off so deep in the playoffs. This is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Musings: The Deadline Day Edition

Reasons to Trust Mr Sather: Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh, Mike Del Zotto, Mike Sauer. Thanks to Glen Sather and the Rangers scouting department this club has a wealth of depth on the blue line, with a fair bit in reserve. Note that top 5; all young and all have ability either side of the puck.

You may have noted the direction that first point was going in. Rick Nash. If the rumoured package for Nash does indeed include Dylan McIlrath you don’t let it break down because of his inclusion. I’m sure he’ll be a fine player but thanks to the depth discussed above, he’s a luxury the team can afford to move.

Christian Thomas in a Nash package as well? Also Fine. If Nash became a Ranger – and with Kreider deemed untouchable – not to mention Gaborik, Anisimov, Stepan and Callahan firmly entrenched in the top six (at present), Thomas becomes buried on the depth chart and like McIlrath is a luxury the team can afford to move. All thanks to quality drafting and patience in the organisation folks.

Assuming the Rangers current roster wants to show Sather, his staff and the coaching team no major changes are needed they’re sure going about it the wrong way aren’t they? Three poor games in a row, team wide poor decision making and once again an over reliance on shot blocking and a certain goaltender in net.

Dear Brandon Dubinsky, you must really like the thought of playing out your contract in Ohio. Hey, at least the rock and roll Hall of Fame is a short drive away. When the Rangers are trying to make the playoffs, at this rate you’ll be getting tickets to see Guns N Roses inducted. Buck your ideas up.

The Rangers made Marc-Andre Fleury look good the other night; far too much perimeter play. It’s one thing to get pucks on net but there really is no point if you’re not creating traffic, looking for rebounds and generally making a goalie’s night harder than Fleury’s.

Back to Deadline day thoughts: The Rangers do not need to address the defense. Even if Mike Sauer’s not particularly close to returning, the Rangers block shots, do a good job of allowing Lundqvist to see most shots and are better at moving bodies than most give them credit for. I’d rather use assets to upgrade the offense instead of trying to make a great unit even better.

I really want to know who has the final say on the powerplay. Tortorella? Obviously Allaire is in charge of the league’s best goaltending unit. Does Mike Sullivan assume responsibility? Is it shared amongst the coaching duo or do the ‘special assistants’ (guys like Messier) have a major influence? I know it’s hard to grumble too much given the team’s record but there is plenty of talent on the roster to at least have a top 15 powerplay unit. Maybe changes need to be made elsewhere. Maybe…

Gaborik has 4 goals in his last 20 games. He’s not finishing but he’s still playing well. He’s making plays, creating goals and getting assists. The lack of goal scoring may be because teams are zoning in on him now that goal scoring has begun to dry up elsewhere. Could a Nash-like addition free Gaborik up some more? Absolutely

Question Time

  • Are you vehemently behind keeping Brandon Dubinsky and his 6 goals for 4.2m?
  • Do you start Martin Biron against the Islanders or, given the team’s recent play, do you go ‘all-in’ to make sure you get a win (and go with the King)?
  • Do you think the Rangers make a major addition before the deadline?
  • Which of the top four defensemen on the current roster, not inc. Sauer due to injury, is the most expendable all things considered? (i.e. skill set, age, reliance, upside)
  • Can the Rangers win multiple playoff rounds without adding more scoring?

Food for thought: Despite the roster purge of 2003-04 and given the way the Rangers entire organisation has developed in the past five years, is this potentially the most fundamentally-changing deadline day in the Sather era?

Without question, the Islanders game is huge Friday night for so many reasons. Above all (regardless of deadline day potential) the team needs to avoid any losing streaks getting out of hand. Especially given how the Devils and Pens have been playing.

Final Thought: Antoine Vermette. Steve Downie. Their trades have nothing to do with the Rangers? Wrong. Brandon Dubinsky is better than both players. He also has more upside. Yet Vermette essentially got shipped out for a 2nd plus change while Downie got moved for a package that included a first round pick. When discussions about Nash come to a head Sather can point to these two players’ value in regard to Dubinsky and that could help establish a package for Nash – or any other significant trade. The Vermette and Downie deals have a massive knock on effect to the likes of Dubinsky. Any good GM will have taken note.

Prospect Watch: Thomas Returns

This week saw the return to game action of Christian Thomas, who has been sitting out thanks to the ten game suspension the OHL threw his way. His return was in the Subway Super Series against the Russian national team, as Thomas represented the OHL (Team Russia plays against each CHL league).

Thomas did not disappoint, grabbing an assist on the game winner and adding a goal near the end as the OHL team beat the Russians 6-3  in Sault Ste. Marie after racing to a 6-0 lead. While it was a good return to action for Thomas it’s hard to gauge the level of opponents as the Russian team is never the strongest available.  In this instance it didn’t feature some of the quality prospects expected to be lottery picks, or first rounder’s in 2012. Regardless, Thomas will be happy with his return to the ice and will look to kick off from here and be a difference maker once more for Oshawa.

Dylan McIlrath may have missed a few games earlier this season but is putting together a pretty solid season for Moose Jaw in the WHL. Despite being pointless and on the losing side on Saturday (MJ lost 3-2 to Swift Current), McIlrath got in to a fight and played his typical brand of physical hockey. With 5 points (2 goals) in 11 games so far this year McIlrath is already only 3 goals off his total from last year.

Quick Hits:

  • Chris Kreider and Boston College got whipped, losing 5-0 to Boston University on Sunday. It’s never good to lose to your neighbours. BC was inept on the powerplay, going 0-8 while Kreider finished the game -1 with just one shot to his name. BC will look to move on immediately next week when they travel for a non conference tilt with Notre Dame.
  • JT Miller continues to be both productive and consistent. The first round pick grabbed 6 points and went +5 in 3 games last week for his surging Plymouth side. Miller now has 25 points in 21 games for the season – an impressive introduction to major junior.
  • Scott Stajcer may not be winning games but his play is getting better. The goalie is 2-3-2 in 7 games but sits at .922 % and a 2.54GAA. Considering how inflated those numbers were just a few short weeks ago Stajcer is doing all he can to stay relevant in a tricky situation in Owen Sound.
  • Shane McColgan may have 20 points in 19 games for Kelowna in the WHL but -9 is never a good thing to have on your record.
  • Jesper Fasth has slowed down from his great start to the year as he has 14 points in 18 games with HV71 of the SEL. Fasth is scoreless in multiples games however it has still been a very encouraging season for the young winger already.
  • Andrew Yogan and the Peterborough Petes sit second in the East Division of the OHL and Yogan – and Peter Čerešňák – have played their part. Čerešňák has a solid 7 points in 19 games from the blueline while Yogan has 14 in 18 up front. Perhaps more should be expected from Yogan, an over-ager but there is still a long way to go in the season for Yogan to make his case for the pro-ranks next season.

Prospect Watch: Consistency Abound

Rangers’ prospects are showing more offensive consistency this season than the players already donning red white and blue.

Mid round prospect Jesper Fasth continued his strong play over the past week and is averaging a point per game as we approach November. The Swedish youngster is now up to 14 points in 14 games for his HV71 side in the SEL and is second in the league in scoring. The SEL is a relatively low scoring league and is often veteran heavy in regard to the offensive leaders so it’s a great achievement for Fasth to be among the league’s best scorers.

Considering Fasth scored 16 points all of last season for HV71 it gives you a little more appreciation to quite how good his start has been. Indeed 16 points in 36 games was considered a solid year for a 19 year old in 09/10 so Fasth is really blossoming this season.

Another player impacting the box score on a consistent basis is Michael St Croix in the WHL. The Edmonton Oil King has 12 points in 13 games to go with a +1 rating and has notched a couple of PP goals as well. St Croix however will expect to kick on somewhat as the young center scored over a point/game last season with 75 in 68. With the Oil Kings sitting on an 8-3-1-1 record St Croix will hope to become the focal point of the in-form side.

Another player in the WHL is Shane McColgan and he’s another player that keeps troubling the scorers as he leads his Kelowna side with 14 points in 11 games. Unfortunately the -6 rating isn’t as impressive. McColgan looks like a good pick by the Rangers however, as he continues to produce despite his Rockets team struggling in 4th place in their division with a 4-7-1 record. McColgan will be looking to lead his side to a better record.

Quick Hit Time:

  • Dylan McIlrath has 3 points (1 goal) in 8 games for Moose Jaw the WHL to go with 18 PIMS and a -1 rating. Moose Jaw are hovering around the .500 mark so far this season. Rangers’ try-out Colin Bowman has 4 goals and an assist from the blueline for Mcilrath’s club.
  • Chris Kreider has 8 points (4+4) in 6 games as he continues his solid season for BC. Notoriously a slow starter it all bodes well for a very strong year from arguably the Rangers most important prospect. Hell, when available he may even slot straight into the top line LW spot in New York, such is the flux at the position.
  • He’s only played 3 games but uMass senior Danny Hobbs has 5 points in 3 games so far this season. Hobbs has made great strides offensively each season going from 2, to 9, to 28 total points. Given his start he could very well beat the 28 mark this year.
  • Despite an ugly -8 rating, Christian Thomas continues to pick up offensively and now has 10 points in 13 games. By all accounts Thomas is trying to do it all for his side and could benefit from stepping back slightly and concentrating on his own game. With a rookie goalie in net Oshawa appear to be building towards next season so don’t rule out Thomas becoming an appealing target for contenders in the OHL.
  • Scott Stajcer appears to be beginning to shake of the rust of the preseason as he has improved his personal stats for Owen Sound to a 1-2-0-1 record, with a 2.91GAA and a .901 save %. Given his first couple of starts those numbers aren’t bad. The problem for Stajcer is the three-headed monster that is the goaltending situation in Owen Sound whose 6-8-0-1 record is none too impressive.

Could Staal Mean Dylan?

With all the hullaballoo (love that word) surrounding Marc Staal’s physical condition, it’s worth pointing out once again the impressive depth the Rangers have at the defense position. Yes, I can hear the replies now of ‘none of them are Marc Staal’. Certainly true, at least at this stage of their careers they are not. However, what is worth noting is that there may not be a franchise in the league right now that could bear the brunt of missing their best blue liner better the Rangers can.

Obviously if Staal misses game time long term it puts a huge dent in the 2011-12 plans of the Rangers. I’d argue that he is just as important as a Gaborik, more important than a Dubinsky, and not far behind the level of importance Lundqvist has on this team. However, the Rangers have a stack of defensemen on the bubble of making the big club (sooner rather than later) that could fill in at least short term, even if it was in a reduced capacity.

Dave pointed out the other day how Pavel Valentenko may be on the roster and not in the AHL due to his contract status. Indeed Valentenko has the physical game and aggressiveness to keep the Rangers blueline nasty and with an appropriate physicality. You have the much discussed, even more anticipated Tim Erixon looking impressive each day, and the potential offensive whiz of Mike Del Zotto still around. Great potential, great depth.

Here’s the wild card in the Staal situation: don’t rule out the Rangers keeping Dylan McIlrath with the club if Staal were to miss some regular season time. It serves a few purposes. The Rangers get a full look at the big kid in ‘real’ NHL action. It gives him invaluable experience and could be done in the bottom pairing with another player moving up. Steve Eminger played admirably in a bigger role for a period last year, so it’s not daunting to think he could be needed to do it again this season even if it isn’t ideal.

Back to Dylan McIlrath. A lot of people may think he’s not NHL ready and he probably isn’t. He wasn’t a dominating presence at Traverse City and he’s not been a name flying off the tongue in camp either. However, when considering this potential opportunity to fill-in for Staal remember John Tortorella’s recent comments about infusing yet more talent in to the line up and further developing the youth. Giving McIlrath a 6-7 game look to begin the year does both. Hey, you may send him back to junior after a spell in NY, but take a look at what you have in the kid. We’ll get some more insight in to McIlrath’s readiness in today’s pre-season opener.

So how about Blake Parlett and Tomas Kundratek? Brendan Bell? Staal’s ‘injury’ scare is unfortunate, potentially crippling if it lingered, but if anything it should act as a carrot to the rest of the defensemen in camp that aren’t assured of a roster spot. In an odd way, the Staal situation could act as a great motivator to the rest and really crank up the competition. Players are playing for an NHL job, even if it’s short term. Once they’re there it’s a chance to stick with the team.

Given that I’m a risk taker, but at the same time an optimist, if the unfortunate scenario of Staal missing game time occurred, I’d give McIlrath a shot while taking a veteran such as Bell to Europe as well. You have the safety blanket of Bell being around but the opportunity to unleash what is (hopefully) a big part of the team’s future in McIlrath. Nothing ventured, nothing gained right?

Sin Bin Guest Post: Matt J (Again…Someone Else Win Please)

The title of this post is clearly a joke.  Matt J wins this week’s Sin Bin again, I think it’s his 38th win or something like that.  Luckily he writes pretty damn well.  Here is his guest post about which rookies are potentials for this year’s club.

Carl Hagelin- Just graduated out of Michigan and averaged over a point a game in his last two seasons as Michigan’s captain. I must say though it’s hard to compare NCAA players to OHL players. I think when Hagelin finally gets to the NHL he can be a Ruslan Fedotenko like player with more of a scoring touch. I don’t see Hagelin being more than a 3rd liner on the Rangers but I think he can be very effective in that role. Will he get playing time this year? He definitely will see the ice for the Rangers this year but how much ice he will see remains to be seen. If he’s playing well in the AHL, he could be a good injury call up. Does he make the opening night roster? Doubtful. He’s really going to have to outplay Fedotenko, Sean Avery, Erik Christensen, and Mats Zuccarrello to have any chance of making it. But he can’t even let it be close in comparisons between him and other players because Torts is going to go with experience if it’s a tough call.

Christian Thomas- The 54 goal scorer finished second in scoring in the OHL last season in a very impressive season. Thomas has the potential to be a big scoring threat at the NHL level. It’s too bad he’s not eligible for the AHL because clearly he can outplay his opponents at the OHL level. Will he get playing time this year? I’m going to go with no because this all rides on whether or not he makes the team this year and survives cuts, and if does that he has to go back to the OHL and can’t come back. Does he make the opening night roster? He’s got to really outplay everyone in the pre-season and really show what he’s got in Traverse City this year. I’m gonna say no though because I don’t think the Rangers need to rush him to the NHL this year. I think though it’s important that when the Connecticut Whale’s playoffs start that he makes an impact.

Dylan McIlrath- The big heavy hitting McIlrath really got his game going last year and the Rangers staff say he looks a lot better this year. These tough defenseman really take a long time to mature into NHL players but when they do they are really effective. Take Zdeno Chara for example. Even after he got into the NHL he wasn’t at his best and it took 3 seasons for him to really dominate at the NHL level with the Senators. But he became a Norris winner, and one of the best defenseman in the NHL. Do I think or expect Mcilrath to do that? No. But he could be a Jeff Beukeboom, (I’m gonna say better than Beukeboom) and clear the crease, and fight anyone who gets in Hank’s or any other Rangers face. With him on the ice the days of running Rangers would be over. Gaborik would never try to drop the gloves again with McIlrath. Does he see the ice this year? No. Does he make the opening night roster his year? No.

You might ask why I would even bother to include him on the list then if I didn’t think he could make the roster but I think he could make the squad for 2012-2013. I think though it’s very important for him to have a great Traverse City, and a great camp with the Rangers, so the fans could get off his back. We can’t take our anger out on him just because some of us wanted Cam Fowler. And please get over the fact we didn’t take Fowler. Because if MDZ rebounds than him and Fowler are the same player.

Those are the big 3 this year, but I doubt that one of those 3 are on the opening night roster. But I do think those 3 crack the roster for the 2012-2013 season. There’s just too much of a log jam at the forwards position for Thomas and Hagelin to beat out, and Mcilrath definitely get another year at Moosejaw to reinforce his skills. But I do think those 3 players have a big future with the Rangers.

Other players getting an honorable mention to making the squad this year: Pavel Valentenko, John Mitchell (Who had a solid season and playoffs for the Whale in limited games), Dale Weise, and Tomas Kundratek. Also, had Pashnin not gone to the KHL I would have definitely included him on this list.

But the real chance for everyone in our pipeline to make the Rangers is in the 2012-2013 season where we would probably not bring back the following players pending a huge turnaround for them: Steve Eminger, Wojtek Wolski, Sean Avery, Erik Christensen, and Ruslan Fedotenko. Imagine the fight for the roster spots if all those people weren’t brought back? It would be fun to watch.

2012-2013: The Best in the League?

I know it’s foolish to look too far down the line, so much changes in a short space of time. However, is it possible that the Rangers will ice the league’s best defensive unit in 12 months time?

Look at the age, the skill sets, the personalities and physical tools that the Rangers have (and will have) at their disposal over the coming seasons. It’s actually quite scary when you look at the depth and age of the players the Rangers can choose from. It’s also a massive compliment to the drafting, trading and developmental ability of the Rangers in recent times.

When you consider the Rangers defensive core this season, it compliments each other very nicely. Marc Staal is coming off a 29 point season and has been one of the best shutdown defenders in the entire league for a few years now and is still only 24 while Dan Girardi’s assets have been well documented (blocking, blocking, blocking) while he too adds some offensive ability.

The Rangers (assuming Del Zotto starts in the minors) don’t benefit from an offensive whiz on the back end like the Kings do with Doughty or the Capitals do with Green but the Rangers may have one of the very best groups of multi faceted defensemen in the league right now. Ryan McDonagh and Mike Sauer are wise beyond their years and all four defenseman should continue to provide the Rangers with an excellent top four. With Girardi being the eldest at 27 the foursome could be together for many years and chemistry (and continuity) should not be underrated.

Beyond the top four, this season will see Mike Del Zotto – the Rangers own offensive hope – and Tim Erixon likely competing for bottom pair duty to begin the year with Steve Eminger. The key here is depth. Eminger has draft pedigree and proved to be a solid depth player for the Rangers so the Rangers truly don’t/won’t need to hold their breath when any of their defensemen take the ice. How many teams in the league can rely on each pair as much as the Rangers can?

Not only have the Rangers a great defense now, but even more impressive may be the future. Do the Rangers have their answer to Zdeno Chara in Dylan McIlrath? Only time will tell but the signs are encouraging and even if he doesn’t reach that standard the Rangers D only stands to get scarier. Never a bad thing. With Erixon, McIlrath and Del Zotto representing the future they are ably backed up by the likes of Valentenko and Kundratek to name a few.

Indeed, the Rangers may have 5-6 legitimate NHL candidates for the blueline beyond the current roster and again, how many teams can boast that depth? The current defensive roster is set but the Rangers haven’t rested on their laurels thanks to good drafting and the defense should be a strength (potentially) for another decade which bodes very well when behind them is a certain Henrik Lundqvist in net. These are many of the reasons for optimism surrounding the Rangers. They have built the right way, from the back out, and it doesn’t look like slowing down.

When I think how the Rangers have built recently I think of the Predators. Year after year the Preds drafted defensemen and they boast one of the deepest cores in the league. It has helped make a small market team highly competitive. The biggest difference is that the Rangers can keep their best players and always attract better ones. The Rangers can compete on every level the Predators cannot and the Rangers now boast a similar defensive pipeline as the Predators have.

It isn’t a stretch to say that with another year of development the Rangers could have the best defensive corps in the entire league. The unit has size, youth, skill, character and pedigree. When you have the talent and youth the Rangers do then it stands to reason that it should be a strength. We’ll see if it becomes the Rangers calling card.

The Bottom Defense Pair Competition

Barring any more moves by Glen Sather and company, the Rangers are looking at some intense competition for two of the final roster spots on the blue line come September.  Four spots are a given: Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Mike Sauer, and Ryan McDonagh.  One spot is all but a given (Steve Eminger), so if the Rangers decide to carry seven defensemen, that leaves two spots up for grabs.  We all know the names, but let’s break them down into three categories.

The Favorites

The favorites for those last two spots are relatively clear: Tim Erixon and Michael Del Zotto.  They are the ones that are the most NHL ready –or have prior NHL experience.  Both bring an aspect to the game that the Rangers don’t appear to have on the blue line in their ability to jump start the offense with an outlet pass.  Del Zotto has more offense to his game and may have the higher potential in that regard, but Erixon is likely to be the more rounded of the two in all three zones.  Expect them both to be on the opening night roster, even if they are both left handed shots.

The Dark Horses

This category is also limited to two names really, and they are Pavel Valentenko and Tomas Kundratek.  At first glance of the names, people will flock to Valentenko because he has that booming shot.  However, it was clear last preseason that he was not ready for the NHL.  Improvement in his skating and positioning were a must for Tenk.  Kundratek may not have that shot, but he is a sound defender who plays the game well in his own zone.  I would give Kundratek the upper hand here because he is currently better than Tenk in his own zone, and he is a much needed right handed shot.

The Possible But Unlikely

Only one name goes here: Dylan McIlrath.  McIlrath is just flat out mean, and would give the Rangers much needed toughness on the blue line.  Sauer can only do so much of the punishing on his own.  McIlrath not only needs to impress, but he needs to show he can win the Calder in order to be a serious contender for a roster spot this season.  In essence, he needs to do what Del Zotto did two years ago.  The Rangers won’t make that mistake twice though.  McIlrath is possible, but he won’t make the club this year.

If I had to put a ranking of those likely to make the roster, I would put Del Zotto at the front of the list with Erixon not far behind.  Kundratek would round out the top three, and to be honest, any one of them can win a roster spot over the others with a strong camp.  There is a big gap on my list between Kundratek and Valentenko, and an even bigger gap between Tenk and McIlrath.  Those kids are going to be battling hard for those last two spots.  Anything can happen.