As i tweeted last night, Dallas, Anaheim were ready to pounce at 11, 12.....and Florida and Vancouver were intrigued
Fearsome fighter and shutdown ‘D’ is a big open-ice hitter and the absolute toughest player in the draft, but a lot of scouts say he has an interesting upside, too.
Strengths: Big, wide body with room for another 20-30 pounds when he’s at his physical peak. Very good upper body strength; uses it to staple wingers along the boards or to stand in and give/absorb punches while fighting. Biggest wingspan of any player in the 2010 draft class with an 83-inch reach; allows him to effectively employ a pokecheck on defense, and also comes in very handy when fighting; he ragdolls opponents and keeps them at arm’s length while pounding them. Straight-line speed is above average; can get up the ice well once he gets going. A feared open-ice hitter; reads the play well and anticipates where an opponent will be, then lowers the boom. Very good defensive sense- understands his positioning and clears the crease with abandon. Loves the physical aspect of hockey; wants to go out and punish opponents, yet doesn’t run around the ice out of control…exhibits measured aggression. Possesses a cannon for a point shot; takes a while on the windup, but the drive is low, heavy and deflectable. After veteran Travis Hamonic was traded to Brandon, was given a bigger role on offense and embraced it, finishing the season with 24 points after having almost zero production before Christmas. Relishes the fighting element of his game—welcomes any challenger and ended up pounding enough guys early in the season that word got out and he had a relatively quiet second half. Some say he’s the most effective and feared fighter to come out of the WHL since Scott Parker in the late-90’s. Can throw with both hands; punches hard and can take down an opponent with one solid connection. Creates space for his defense partner; makes opponents think twice when he’s on the ice—players keep their heads on a swivel and account for ‘Big Mac’ at all times. Very good character and work ethic; highly respected in the dressing room—a leader. Nasty disposition on the ice, calm and laid-back off it.
Weaknesses: First-step quickness is lacking; needs work on his lateral movement and change of direction. Stiff in the hips; not as fluid when pivoting/transitioning. Doesn’t seem to see the ice very well and may lack the proper instincts to be a top-pairing ‘D’ and power play guy at the next level. Only starting to hone his first pass skills and realizing that he needs to be more effective on the breakout. Defensive positioning and decision-making still need work; can get a little scrambly, and when he does, his flaws are exposed for all to see.
Style compares to: If he continues to develop, Shea Weber or Dion Phaneuf. If he stays where he is/flatlines, Adam Foote with a little Matt Carkner thrown in for good measure.
Projection: Solid No. 4 at the very least, and could develop into a No. 2 if his offensive game picks up more. But what McIlrath will give a team goes well beyond the numbers and measurables because he’s a player who can alter the tempo and flow of a game with one big shift. Like Milan Lucic, he can make a thundering hit, blast someone in a fight and conceivably score a goal or set one up all in the span of a minute or so, which is rare for any player. McIlrath made a significant leap in his development, production and toughness from his first WHL season to second, and some talent evaluators think he has the potential to keep his upward development curve going and that the best is yet to come. For all the knocks on his “lack” of offense, he scored as many points as Pysyk (albeit in fewer games, but didn’t really get the chance to play that role until after Christmas) and got more points than Derek Forbort, who gets hailed almost universally for his great upside but really didn’t generate a ton of offense when you get down to it. I really think this guy has been sold short by fans who haven’t really seen him or know a lot about him beyond his defensive acumen and toughness, but who have decided that he’s another Mark Stuart. Maybe so, but if he’s more than that (and you have to admit—the numbers from 08-09 to 09-10 are saying something) then people will be kicking themselves for years because he has it in him to be a momentum-changer for his team.
“An old school defensemen who plays hard and very physical. A great deal of untapped potential that can be used in shut down situations as well as on the offensive side of the puck.” – Moose Jaw Warriors head coach Dave Hunchak to NHL.com
“Offensive ability is not yet there, but many are selling his upside short. Shows flashes of jumping into the offense smartly and ability to shoot the puck. Feet are just a little bit slow. But his stride got longer this season and he does have some decent straight line speed that helps him recover if he get surprised by a speedy forward. (But yes, if a scout writes “good recovery speed” down as a note, that is not really a positive thing.) Underrated first pass ability – just keeps it simple and gets it out of trouble with reliability. That’s all he’ll need to be an effective NHLer.”- Red Line Report’s Mike Remmerde in his NHL Draft Notes blog; June, 2010
“I saw him throw three or four thundering hits (in the open ice), but he fought only once. It was almost as if he would make the hit and look around for the inevitable challenge, but nobody wanted to fight him. It was pretty obvious that he had established a reputation and there weren’t too many guys who wanted to tangle with him at that point.”- NHL scout to New England Hockey Journal; June, 2010
Also these are quotes from his coach, who spoke very highly of him:
“It’s scary to see how far he’s come from where he was at in August in 2008 to the middle of February,” Moose Jaw coach Dave Hunchak told NHL.com. “The improvement on him is one of the biggest improvements I’ve seen in a single player ever.”
The 6-foot-4, 212-pound defenseman had 7 goals, 24 points and a plus-20 rating in 65 games, and his 169 penalty minutes were seventh in the WHL.
Those numbers aren’t bad for someone who really didn’t put his full effort into the game until two seasons ago.
“He didn’t play midget hockey at 15. The next year he’s playing in the Western Hockey League,” said Hunchak. That’s the equivalent of a football player jumping to Division I without playing in high school. “To make that step and come the distance he’s come, I really can’t tell you what the ceiling is for him.”
Now, Hunchak sees nothing but good things, with even more to come. Next is continuing to add an offensive element to his game. McIlrath finished second in the hardest shot contest at January’s CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, launching a 91.8 mph rocket.
“I feel he’s very similar to (Islanders prospect) Travis Hamonic,” said Hunchak. “When we had Travis at 17, he was drafted as a simple, stay-at-home defenseman. At 19 he was still that guy, but he led our league in scoring as a defenseman. He didn’t sacrifice the defensive play; he added the other element by doing things at the right time. Dylan, once he figures out what his foundation is as a player, with regards to being hard and a physical player to play against, he can add that (offense) going forward. It’s just a matter of you’re 17 years old, you’re 6-5 and 215 pounds, with size 14 feet and a high-pace game. It’s going to take some time.”
There’s no reason to doubt McIlrath will bring that offensive element into his game. Considering how far he’s already come in such a short time, there’s no reason to doubt him.
“What I like about Dylan is how raw he is,” said Hunchak. “I don’t know what his max potential is going to be if he continues on the pace he’s on.”