It is the phone call Dylan McIlrath has been dreaming about since the Rangers made him the tenth overall selection in the 2010 NHL Draft. At the age of 21, in his second season of professional hockey, McIlrath was recalled by the Rangers from the Hartford Wolf Pack Wednesday afternoon and will be available to play should head coach Alain Vigneault choose that path Thursday when the Blueshirts host the Columbus Blue Jackets at Madison Square Garden.
The bruising 6-foot-5 defenseman will bring toughness and a distinct physical presence to the Rangers lineup, along with a still-developing two-way game. McIlrath appeared in all 24 games the Wolf Pack had played this season, scoring three goals and adding four assists for a total of seven points---two more than he had in 45 games as a rookie pro last year.
At the time of his recall McIlrath currently leads the American Hockey League with 115 penalty minutes. An imposing, feared fighter, McIlrath totaled 125 penalty minutes last season despite missing the first 29 games of the minor league season following off-season knee surgery. Tested early and often by veteran heavyweights in the AHL, McIlrath---despite playing on a rehabbed knee that wasn't 100 percent until this past summer---quickly earned a reputation as one of the best, and most feared, fighters in the league.
A native of Winnipeg, McIlrath totaled 102, 169, 153 and 127 penalty minutes during his four seasons playing with Moose Jaw in the Western Hockey League before turning pro last season. He scored a career-high seven goals and recorded a career-best 24 points during his draft year, 2009-10, with Moose Jaw.
McIlrath's addition to the roster follows Vigneault's decision to recall veteran Arron Asham and put him in the lineup as well as the return to action of rugged winger Derek Dorsett, who had missed three straight games with a sore wrist prior to his return for Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Nashville Predators. The head coach spoke recently about the importance of team toughness, and certainly these three recent moves address any toughness issues on the Rangers roster.
Whether or not McIlrath will be in the lineup Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets is not yet known as the move to recall the hulking blueliner was made after Vigneault met with the media on Wednesday afternoon.