Dare we hope? Here's are some tidbits of an article from Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant:
The consolation prize for the Wolf Pack, meanwhile, is the knowledge that some of their young AHL talent took some strong strides this season into developing into NHL talent. Oscar Lindberg for one, and — bam! — McIlrath for another.
"The second half of the season, from Christmas on, Dylan really started to take off," assistant coach Jeff Beukeboom said last week. "He's been exceptional. It's his time line, the best way to put it. The second half has been everything we could have wanted out of the kid. He's always competed hard and worked half. He's just come into his own."The Monarchs' leading playoff goal scorer, Michael Mersch, also didn't play in Game 4.
That's because McIlrath put him out of the series with a mid-ice hit in Game 3 on Tuesday night. Beukeboom, a big, fierce hitter in his day on defense with the Edmonton Oilers and the Rangers, has been McIlrath's mentor. It shows.
McIlrath, 6-5, 230 pounds, threw some hellacious hits in this game. He threw them all playoffs. The only louder sound heard in the XL Center during the past decade was when Jim Calhoun stamped his foot on the court after a bad call by a referee.
"There's a heart and soul guy," Gernander said of McIlrath. "If you watched the way he finished the game, finished the season, he has made great progress. He played hard right to the end, some big hits, and they were all clean. He certainly was a presence, someone to be dealt with, in all three series with his physical play. But he didn't take himself out of position.
"He was solid defending. I think he was a plus-player in every series. He did a great job. You want to talk about positives, there's one. He has worked as hard as he could for as long as he has been here to get a playoff opportunity as a key player, a go-to guy and he rose to the challenge."Jeff Jacbos, Hartford Courant, 05/27/2015Picked 10th overall in the first round of the 2010 NHL draft by the Rangers, McIlrath dislocated his knee cap in a collision at Rangers' prospects camp in the summer of 2012. He had surgery and another procedure in October and played only 45 games that season. Some other injuries followed.
"It was a pretty significant injury," Beukeboom said. "This is the first full season where he's been 100 percent healthy. I think that goes a long way."
At 23, he has played in only three games in the NHL. The Rangers had the best record in the NHL this season, they can advance to their second Stanley Cup final in two years with a victory against Tampa Bay on Friday night. They are not starving for talent, but McIlrath made enough noise in a very quiet series against Manchester to tell the NHL, hey, look at me.
"I was just gaining confidence throughout the year," McIlrath said. "I thought I had a good camp. I had a little bit of a bumpy road in November, but after that point on I felt like I just developed and improved every game. That's what I focused on.
"Our group had a lot of positives, myself included. I thought I played a pretty good playoff and also can learn something. Take a look at Manchester, their skilled forwards, I can maybe do something better in the future and try to defend them better. I've got to look at everything, but I'm definitely going to take the positives."
Obviously the article's a week or so old, because it still mentioned that we could move on if we beat the Lightning. And while we can obviously assume that anyone speaking about our prospects from within the organization is going to sugarcoat it, it's nice to see an outside party giving him some love.
I highlighted the quote from Beuk because it addresses an argument (more of a hope, really) that we've heard on here before: he's not a bust yet; his development has been hampered by serious injuries.
If it's truly the case that now that he was finally able to play a full season he was able to make strides developmentally, that's great news for our team. It's news that comes on the heels of Uncle Larry's observation that we need someone who will hit back. It's also welcome news for the purposes of our cap and defense stability.
NOW is the time to start thinking about how to improve on the cheap. Should we move on from Dan Boyle, as infeasible as it may be, it's not inconceivable that we roll with Hunwick full time to keep the cap hit down. To that end, especially with some of the serious injuries suffered by our D, it would be a tremendous asset to have guys we could call upon to fill out the D corps when needed without costing out the ass.
In my pipe dream, we'd see him and Skjei on a pairing together to start the season next year in Hartford, and eventually come up together later next season (or the year after) a la McD and Sauer. Obviously with the group we have it won't happen like that, but if Dylan can reestablish himself as a potential component of this team's future, it not only adds an element and insurance policy (on multiple levels, including protecting our goalie, throwing down when necessary and stepping up in case of injury) we're sorely lacking, it does so on a cost-effective basis.
I daren't hope just yet, but if he's starting to develop again now that the injuries are behind him, we might have an unforeseen boon fall in to our laps.