Rangers really got their man at draft
McIlrath on a path to one day be among NHL' most-feared defenseman
|Other teams expressed an interest in trading up to get the No. 10 pick from the Rangers, but the Blueshirts were not prepared to give up their chance to draft defenseman Dylan McIlrath, whom they project will be a major NHL force in years to come.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
When it came time for the Rangers to announce their first-round selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft Friday night in Los Angeles, there wasn’t any last-minute debating or arguing at the team’s table. Rangers’ executives had known for several months that rugged defenseman Dylan McIlrath was the player they wanted.
“He’s a special kind of player,” Gordie Clark, the Rangers Director, Player Personnel, said of McIlrath. “When this kid is 22 years old, you’re going to see a hell of a National Hockey League player. Other teams are not going to want to play against him or come into Madison Square Garden.”
McIlrath stands 6-feet-4 inches tall and weighs 215 pounds. He is a punishing physical defenseman with a noted mean streak. Last year while playing with Moose Jaw in the WHL, McIlrath racked up 19 fighting majors and 169 penalty minutes.
“That’s part of my role, and I relish that,” McIlrath said on Friday night. “I took boxing instruction with (Cam Barker’s) dad last summer, and then found out this season that I’m a pretty good at it. I hope (the Rangers’ fans) accept me with open arms, because (the physical style) is not going to change.”
McIlrath’s character and willingness to stand up for his Moose Jaw teammates are two important reasons why the Rangers are so taken with him. They also are excited about the fact that, when given more on-ice responsibility in Moose Jaw the second half of the 2009-10 season, McIlrath’s all-around game improved dramatically.
“This kid is just taking off,” said Clark.”We loved that he flourished when given the chance to play in all the important situations.”
While his crease-clearing capabilities and pugilistic skill are McIlrath’s calling cards as a hockey player, there is far more to the Rangers’ first-round pick.
McIlrath’s offensive play has picked up greatly. He has a booming slap shot, one that was clocked as the second-hardest at the CHL Top Prospects Game’s Skills Competition this past January. The Winnipeg native also finished the season with a career-high seven goals and 24 points, and played the point on Moose Jaw’s power play late in the year.
|Gordie Clark, the Rangers' Director, Player Personnel, said his staff is convinced to a man that Dylan McIlrath will be a dominant NHL defensive presence when he reaches his peak as a Blueshirt.|
One of the keys to McIlrath’s game, and what makes him such an elite prospect in the eyes of the Rangers, is his surprising skating ability. McIlrath is a very fluid, smooth skater, a skill not often seen in players so big at this age.
“The feet are tremendous already for a kid that’s a little over 6-foot-4,” Clark said of McIlrath, who is also a highly-skilled volleyball player. “He’s a very, very good skater.”
As the first round unfolded in somewhat surprising fashion -- only one defenseman from a draft considered deep in top-end defensemen was selected by time the Rangers took to the podium for No. 10 -- the Rangers fielded phone calls from teams looking to move up in drafting order.
However, the Rangers believed that they had the player they wanted in their sights and chose not to trade down and possibly lose McIlrath to another team.
“The phone was ringing, but it gets a little tricky when you slip down in the draft because you could lose the player you really want,” said Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather. “We knew about (McIlrath) and knew he was the type of player we were looking for so we got him.”
With several more high-profile defensemen still available, McIlrath, who also had been courted by Dallas, Anaheim, Vancouver, and Florida, was a bit surprised when he saw Clark step to the microphone at the Staples Center and say his name with the tenth overall pick.
“I’m glad that the New York Rangers had faith in me and stayed true to me and picked me over those other guys,” said McIlrath. “I am grateful for that.”
Now with the player they wanted all along officially drafted into the organization, the Rangers must plan for Day Two of the draft on Saturday. The Rangers have four picks remaining in the draft.
“There’s still lots of work ahead for us, but we are really happy to have added a player like McIlrath (Friday),” said Clark. “He’s exactly what we were looking for.”