As the Rangers announced the signings of Ryan Bourque and Dylan Mcilrath it signified the next step in the youth movement. With Carl Hagelin rumoured to follow them as soon as his college season is over the youth movement many, many fans have long clamoured for appears to be accelerating. The signing of Bourque, in particular, caught my attention. In my opinion it’s a clear display of confidence in the young, undersized and oft injured winger’s potential. With him being signed relatively early (given the amount of the season still ahead) it is a sign that the Rangers are not afraid to continue to integrate smaller players providing their play deserves it. Bourque – when fit – has been an impact player for Quebec of the QMJHL and has excelled as a checking forward on the international stage.
Looking at the current Rangers roster there are some notable ‘smaller’ players. With Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Callahan both players of smaller stature – especially Zuccarello – the Rangers have notable contributors already in the line up. What makes the integration of these players easier is the size around them. Not a single Rangers defenseman is under 6’1 and 200lbs. Only 4 forwards listed on the current roster are less than 6’0 while 9 forwards listed are over 200lbs. That’s quite a bit of physicality surrounding the Zuccarello’s of the team.
With Bourque, Hagelin, Christian Thomas and Jesper Fasth all being prospects that would be considered undersized the Rangers will make sure the physical balance is right. It’s when discussing physicality you come back to the name Dylan Mcilrath. Some fans may be surprised that the 2010 draftee has already been signed when considering the current NHL defense seems set, that the defenseman’s game (apparently) still needs refining and given the fact that the Rangers had three seasons to get him under contract. So what’s the rush? Well first of all he is more than physically ready (if not imposing) for the NHL and secondly we have heard Tortorella repeatedly mention his preference to teach prospects first hand. That is one of the reasons the coach has been publicly anxious to get Chris Kreider into the organisation. Given those two aspects, Dylan Mcilrath may be an outside bet for a roster spot next year, providing he has a good camp. Stranger things have happened.
Every additional prospect the Rangers sign will mean one less NHL contract (of the 50 allowed) available for a free agent and this isn’t something to be forgotten. The Rangers are clearly in youth mode and the blend is starting to look promising. With several younger players learning on the job it will be an easier dressing room to acclimatise to for the next few kids that make the jump.