Monday, April 30, 2012

Eastbound then Northbound

The CT Whale are about to add the New York Ranger's 2010 first round pick Dylan McIlrath on an ATO no later than Tuesday. McIlrath himself tweeted that Sunday was his last night in Moose Jaw and that he was leaving for Connecticut Monday morning.

It'll be interesting to see how quickly or even if Whale Coach Ken Germander decides to insert McIlrath into his lineup. Even if McIlrath does not get to play right away, the experience itself will be a valuable teaching tool to help McIlrath get his professional career underway.

In McIlrath, the Whale are adding a person who away from the ice is the kind of person you want representing your team. It's kind of ironic how the toughest guys in hockey are also the most giving to their community.

On the ice, they're getting a 6'5 225 pound defender who can be best compared to former Ranger Jeff Beukeboom in terms of style and performance. McIlrath just turned 20 and has promising future ahead of him.

Over the last two years, what stood out the most in watching McIlrath was how he could disrupt the other teams attack just by being on the ice. We've watched other teams make a effort to avoid McIlrath side of the ice.

The picture of McIlrath in action that we use here is a good example of the kind of game you will get out of McIlrath. One of the things that McIlrath had to do this year was adjust his game to the rule changes regarding blows to the head.

In the first half we saw McIlrath struggle in part because when you're 6'5 in the WHL then the majority of the players are going to be way smaller than you are. It's hard not to wind up hitting somebody in there had when their head only comes up to your chest.

Still, in the second half we saw McIlrath make the adjustments as to be honest it was a serious concern that McIlrath would draw a third suspension in the WHL. While his first suspension we could not argue with since it was a clear charging major and three games was a fair suspension.

The second one which was an eight-game suspension, we disagreed with in part because, as we said, when you're McIlrath's size there are going to be times when players are much smaller than you. We were not alone in our feeling that McIlrath was being made an example of because at the time it was the largest suspension handed out.

But you can make a case for this being an example of McIlrath's maturity because he adapted his game without losing what made Dylan McIlrath the player he was. Despite Moose Jaw being eliminated in just five games in the WHL Eastern Conference Finals; McIlrath had a good playoff, especially in the second round when he dominated the Medicine Hat Tigers physically and never once was called for a penalty.

Another thing that stood out about McIlrath was how he truly was a leader on the ice, very protective of his teammates. Moose Jaw added a couple of 16-year-old players to their roster down the stretch and McIlrath looked out for them on and off the ice.

That is the kind of player we want to see on the Rangers because sometimes how you carry yourself off the ice is just as important as how you play on the ice. We also think that the first time McIlrath either drops the gloves or levels somebody just like in that picture that Ranger fans will enjoy him just as much as we have

Given the current state of the Ranger's blueline there really is not a rush to get McIlrath to the NHL so a season or two in the AHL will allow him to fully develop. McIlrath has already proven that he is a quick learner and very coach-able so he might be ready much sooner than that.

With the addition of McIlrath, the Rangers will for the first time since the early 1990s have in the system 5 of their own first round picks. Marc Staal (2005), Michael Del Zotto (2008), Chris Kreider (2009), McIlrath (2010), and JT Miller (2011) offer real proof that the cupboard is no longer empty.

It's more than just a first-round picks as the Rangers have 10 players total on their roster who were either draft picks or free agents and worked their way up to the Rangers.

It gets better when you look at the system as a whole as the two minor league teams that support the Rangers, the Ct Whale of the AHL and the Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL combined have seven drafted players and another 10 free agents that are homegrown.

While The Greenville Road Warriors did not make it out of the first-round of the ECHL playoffs; the Ct Whale are playing in the second round of the AHL playoffs for the first time since the 2006 playoffs.

As much as we would all like to see the Rangers win the Stanley Cup, even if they don't this season has to be seen as a winner. There is a clear changing of the guard where the homegrown talent has truly become the core of the team.

Come the off-season for a change the Rangers will be able to work on addressing needs rather than badly needed necessities. We just hope that more than anything else, a new collective bargaining agreement is reached between the NHL and the NHLPA because we don't want nothing to get in the way of the future.

A message

This will probably disappoint some people who seem to have their jollies pointing out mistakes that we've made so here's how we disappoint you.

It took us a while to learn how to do this and we've been blessed because some very good people took the time to teach us many a lesson about scouting, but more importantly, how to handle scouting.

Gordie Clark taught us that "people will never remember the good picks you make but they will always make sure you never forget your mistakes."

It's a great concept to go by so yes I do remember wanting the Rangers to pick one player only to see the team draft somebody else. In fact, it has happened on several occasions and down the road, it'll happen again.

There's also going to be times when the player I wanted turns out to be better than the player the Rangers selected. That too has also happened several times and will happen in the future.

It's the nature of the beast as drafting (and scouting) is the most imperfect job to have.

But it's also the best job I've ever had because it's taught me how to become a better person. The best teachers that I have met over the time I have done this have been the kids themselves.

They have taught me about heart, desire, and surprisingly the biggest lesson has been about humility and compassion towards others.

I am grateful to all of those I've gotten to meet over the years, all of those strangers who became my friends on Twitter and Facebook. I have a lot still to learn and I look forward to learning it.

But it's gonna be fun learning it.

(McIlrath- Katie Brickman)

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