The 2013-14 Proving Ground

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Dylan McIlrath

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Gordie Clark, the Rangers Director of Player Personnel, says it is quite likely that Dylan McIlrath will begin his second professional season with the Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL. But that does not mean this is not a hugely important season for the Rangers top pick from the 2010 draft. McIlrath missed nearly half of his rookie pro campaign recovering from knee surgery in 2012-13, and took some time to regain his foot speed and lateral movement---key ingredients for a defenseman. The strapping 6-foot-5 McIlrath also spent much of his first season in the AHL routinely fighting---and beating up--most of the league's heavyweights, totaling 125 penalty minutes in 45 games played. While happy with that, Clark now wants to see McIlrath be able to stay on the ice and work on improving his all-around game, making this an etremely important season for the 21 year-old. His progress is vital to the team's future because the organization does not have another defenseman posessing his skill set---size, toughness, willingness to fight---in the NHL. The Rangers would be happy to see him join the team's defense corps at some point during the 2013-14 season and become familiar with the game at the National Hockey League level, but McIlrath needs to prove that he is ready for that jump. The Rangers have a solid group of seven NHL-caliber defensemen already, so McIlrath needs to not only prove he is NHL ready, but that he can slide into the Top Six, a major challenge, for sure, but one the organization would love to see happen.