Dylan McIlrath, the New York Rangers’ rookie defenseman, was considered an underdog when he rose to take his place on the roster this season but has since been proving himself to be a great defenseman and teammate with potential.
Though the rookie took a backseat position this season, it won’t be that way for long, especially with the strong play he has demonstrated so far.
All About Ice Presence
McIlrath is a wall of a defenseman at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds and, with his long reach, can effectively keep out the opposition. He accurately defends the net, intercepts passes, and has a cannonball of a slap shot.
The d-man has two goals, one assist, and a plus/minus of six in 30 games this season. This can be compared to Marc Staal’s first year in the NHL in 2007-08 in which he got two goals, eight assists and a plus/minus of two in 80 games played, more than double the games McIlrath has played this season.
McIlrath scored his first NHL goal on Dec.15. The goal was a bullet-like slap shot fired from the blue line. Ever since the rookie proved he could fire a rocket-like slap shot, the Rangers have associated such soaring shots with the player.
As a defenseman, McIlrath has a strong and firm stance on the ice. Every time he steps into the rink he assumes a confident and almost fearless persona. Blueshirts fans often express their love for the d-man’s toughness, and it has quickly made him a fan-favorite.
He has a strong, physical play, which is evident by the fact that he currently leads Rangers defensemen in hits per game and is tied for 4th among NHL rookies in that category. His toughness on the ice is an important aspect of his play, not only because of how strong it makes him defensively but also because of the way it often benefits his team.
Such a joy to know the Rangers always have toughness when Dylan McIlrath is in the lineup. #NYR
— Linda Cohn (@lindacohn) February 24, 2016
The fearlessness and strength doesn’t just intimidate the opposition, it also heightens his play and makes him a protector for his teammates.
McIlrath carries no fear of any possible on-ice scuffle or even of a small stint in the penalty box. He’s a strong and fearless player who does not shy away from a fight. This strong physical play has become a big part of the d-man’s play, so much that fans have coined their own nickname for him, the ‘Rath.’
Unleashing the W(Rath)
McIlrath is no stranger to a fight, nor is he to winning one. He is an unstoppable force when he drops the gloves, and so far it seems like every time he finds a scuffle he leaves confident, often encouraging his team to keep playing.
While throwing punches might not sound like the most productive way to play a hockey game, fights can often spark the team to keep playing well or refocus them. Though McIlrath has dropped the gloves in provoked fights before, he also engages in scuffles as a result of his protective nature. McIlrath often launches himself into his own kind of battle mode where he would fearlessly drop the gloves to protect a teammate.
In November, McIlrath did not hesitate to jump in to defend center Derek Stepan when the forward was dangerously hit by Matt Beleskey in a game against the Bruins. Most recently, when the Rangers faced the Flyers after Wayne Simmonds sucker punched captain Ryan McDonagh, McIlrath instantaneously dropped the gloves with the Flyer in defense of his captain.
Rangers fans have embraced McIlrath’s inclination to fight and roughen up the opposition and are satisfied with a player who was so eager to stick up for his team regardless of penalty consequences. He uses his toughness and willingness to fight in order to strengthen his game while also being a support system for his team. As such a strong player, McIlrath’s intuitions will only help him grow as a player on the ice.
McIlrath has already grown so much in his rookie season, despite the fact that he hasn’t seen the most ice time. Regardless, it is certain that McIlrath’s ice time will grow, especially with how well he performs.
The defenseman has proved what he is capable of and is maintaining the potential that everyone can see within him. He has what it takes to excel as a great defenseman and there is no doubting that he will get there. The Rangers, as well as the coaching staff, have already praised McIlrath’s play and growth. It is easy to see the strength and skill that he has and has yet to unlock.
Many fans are pleased with McIlrath’s presence on the ice and often want to see him on the ice longer, with good reason. He carries such a strong ice presence that makes him exciting to watch on the ice.
So far, McIlrath has grown on and off the ice. He has proved his abilities and has shown the potential he has while also showing how supportive and dedicated of a player he could be.
Good things are ahead for the rookie defenseman, and they aren’t too far off. If McIlrath can continue to put forward his best play and push himself towards his full potentials, all while still being who he is, he will continue to grow into the skilled defenseman that many know he will be.
Alyssa is a writer here at THW as a contributor for her hometown team, the New York Rangers. She is also currently pursuing a Communications degree. Follow her on twitter for some hockey talk and Rangers updates!