NHL 2010 Top Draft Prospects: Dylan McIlrath

There is much interest surrounding Dylan McIlrath and his draft stock for the upcoming 2010 NHL Entry Draft, which will be taking place in Los Angeles. A 6-foot-5, 215-pound defenseman, he is a monster that many are intimidated of when they play the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League. When McIlrath is on the ice, players know it. It affects the play of opposing forwards, who are more worried about becoming one with the boards than scoring a goal.

Some scouts have McIlrath dropping down to a team late in the first round, such as the Red Wings, Penguins or Coyotes, while one NHL.com writer has McIlrath going seventh overall to the Tampa Bay Lightning to complement Victor Hedman to create what would most likely be the tallest defensive pairing in NHL history.

However, it took McIlrath a while to get used to the Major Junior game, as he often seemed uncomfortable on the ice.

“McIlrath looked shaky at first, but after he got the first couple shifts out of the way, he looked very comfortable,” TheScoutingReport.org explains. “He played a very simple game in both ends.  He knows his role is a stay-at-home defenseman and he didn’t even look interested in going into the offensive end.  There was a few times were McIlrath was being so cautious that he didn’t even cross the blueline in order to support the play and keep the puck in the zone.”

In his rookie season, McIlrath put up just four points in 53 games, a number that included a putrid minus-22 rating. In fact, the Winnipeg, Manitoba native seemed to be more of a liability than a future first round draft pick.

However, in his sophomore season, someone seemed to flip a switch on McIlrath, as he put up six times as many points. With 24 points in 65 games and a plus-20 rating, McIlrath was one of the most reliable defenseman in the Western League. He also continued his mean streak of intimidation, putting up 169 penalty minutes, many of those of which were fights, sticking up for his teammates.

“For his size, Dylan is a decent skater although like most big men, he has to work on his mobility and transition game,” TheScoutingReport.org continues. “He could also improve his gap control.  McIlrath was physically very solid and proved to be very hard to knock off his feet.  In one instance was able to clear out two Hitmen in front of his net simultaneously.  He and was steady defensively, blocking shots and effectively kept shooters to the outside.  He made good outlet passes and displayed patience with the puck until finding someone to pass to.”

If he can indeed improve his mobility and transition game, expect scouts to have no problem taking McIlrath, ranked seventeenth by Central Scouting, in the early to middle first round.

Alan Bass is a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com. In addition to writing for Inside Hockey and Pro Hockey News, he has also worked for the Philadelphia Flyers. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College hockey team as well. You can contact him at BergHockey24@gmail.com.

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