Time for McIlrath to put the sweater on? (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
With the injuries mounting in New York and the likes of Stu Bickel and Steve Eminger clearly not enjoying the trust of John Tortorella, could we see first round pick and great white hope, Dylan McIlrath rushed to New York? With a nickname like the Undertaker and a (listed) 6-5, 220 lb frame, McIlrath has the potential to be an imposing defenseman.
As seen by the recent inclusion of Christian Thomas, and to a lesser extent Chris Kreider and JT Miller, readiness may not be the priority but rather the necessity of numbers and positional relevance. If you’re going to have to fill the roster you may as well fill it with players with upside. Clearly the Rangers hope Dylan McIlrath will fulfill his talent and draft status in upcoming seasons. He may get a chance sooner rather than later.
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The Connecticut Whales’ preliminary roster for the upcoming AHL season exposes the lack of blueline depth the Rangers now have beyond the NHL level. The Rangers have benefited in recent times as several prospects have developed into successful, full time NHL’ers in quick succession but the lack of a legitimate NHL candidate at the pro level – beyond the currently injured Dylan McIlrath – suggests the Rangers need to look at the position in the upcoming few draft classes.
While the Rangers also have Brady Skjei and Calle Andersson in the system, there is a lack of depth coming through to follow the Staal’s and Del Zotto’s on to the New York roster. The list of names heading to the Whale camp isn’t confidence inspiring. With all due respect the majority of Sean Collins, Steven Delisle, Jyri Niemi, Blake Parlett, Logan Pyett and Mike Vernace will top out as AHL depth players and it seems – being optimistic – only Jyri Niemi can (realistically?) harbour NHL hopes.
Whoever lines up on the Whale blueline this season will face stern tests on an almost nightly basis when you look at some of the impressive names (think Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Schenn, Henrique etc) sent to respective AHL affiliates. Big league clubs such as Edmonton, New Jersey and Philadelphia have a host of top NHL talent heading to the minors and therefore the unproven, unheralded group of blueliners the Whale will likely put on the ice will know sooner rather than later whether they capable of greater things. Hopefully some of the prospects will surprise.
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As the offseason turns to August, and the rosters begin to take shape, the attention turns away from those with guaranteed roster spots and towards the many prospects within the system that are all competing to be that sleeper in camp. Last year Stu Bickel was that sleeper, and Carl Hagelin was the mid-season call up that many expected he would be. This year there aren’t as many spots open for kids, but there is still a spot or two available for a kid who impresses.
With Tim Erixon traded to Columbus, the prospects on defense with a real chance to make the club are few in numbers. In fact, you can really say that only Dylan McIlrath has a legitimate shot at making the club, although he likely needs a full season at the AHL level.
As for forwards, the list is significantly longer. That said, it is a certainty that the Rangers will not rush their prospects just for the sake of saying they have a rookie on the club (outside of Chris Kreider of course). There are a few kids that will need to turn in fantastic camps in order to even have a longer look come the preseason.
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The conversations this summer have mainly focused on the Rangers forwards. With three forwards departing, three (four if you include the AHL-bound Michael Haley) coming on board, and the never-ending discussions about Rick Nash, Bobby Ryan, Alex Semin, and Shane Doan, it’s easy to see why the focus is on scoring and depth.
However some of the biggest concerns during the postseason were about the depth on defense. Stu Bickel was barely playing, and the five other defensemen were struggling to keep their legs under them while playing shorthanded throughout the playoffs. The Rangers need depth or growth. With Michael Sauer out, and no major signings pending, the answers appear to have to come from within.
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The Rangers held their breath last week as defenseman Dylan McIlrath crumpled to the ice in pain after colliding with newly signed prospect Kyle Jean at prospect development camp.
At the time, McIlrath was diagnosed as day-to-day and though he missed the rest of the camp, McIlrath was expected to be healthy for the start of the season. That’s still not out of the question, but McIlrath faces an uphill battle now after undergoing surgery to repair a dislocated kneecap.
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Before Friday’s draft it’s a good idea to take stock of what the Rangers already have in the system. If New York follows suit, then the Blueshirts will pick the best player available regardless of position. However, it’s worth evaluating where the team’s strengths lie. Kevin evaluated the forwards, so let’s look at the defense.
Erixon has been met with a lot of hype since the Rangers stole him (along with what turned out to be Shane McColgan) from Calgary for two second round picks and Roman Horak last year. After two successful seasons with Skelleftea HC in the SEL, Erixon came over to the NHL and was expected to make the club without any time in the AHL, which is exactly what happened. That said, Erixon struggled during his first NHL stint in October, finishing with no points and a -3 rating in nine games before being sent to the Connecticut Whale. Those nine games would be Erixon’s longest stint with the big club, but all was not lost. Erixon dominated the AHL, finishing with 33 points (3-30-33) in 42 games). The Swede is as NHL ready as you can get. Barring a major setback, he should be a Ranger next fall.
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Yesterday the Rangers announced that they had recalled
nine six players from the Connecticut Whale of the AHL. The Whale were eliminated from Calder Cup contention last week, and the nine six players called up will serve as the “taxi squad.” As per Andrew Gross, they will practice separately from the current roster.
The players called up include:
G – Cameron Talbot
D – Tim Erixon, Dylan McIlrath
F – J.T. Miller, Casey Wellman, Kris Newbury
, Chad Kolarik, Marek Hrivik, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault
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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.
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.
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.