Age/Physical Stats: 23/Ht:6’5″/Wt:220lbs/Shoots: R
NHL Experience: 3GM 0G/0P
Notes: A 2010 1st Round pick, McIlrath has been a project. He has demonstrated improved skating and decision-making and may finally be rounding the corner. He has had a good camp, has been lauded for his hustle and improved play by the coaching staff, and is the reason AV’s decision on the 7th D-man is going to be difficult.
Opinions on him amongst fans are spilt. Many like his size and see him as the sort of big, physical, crease-clearing defensive presence the Rangers haven’t had in a long time.
Others see a clod-footed, wasted draft pick that has taken too long to mature and still isn’t NHL-ready. It’s hard to argue against his willingness to play physical and drop the gloves. In the second period of Wednesday’s game, Henrik Lundqvist was run into by Bruins forward Tyler Randell and minutes later, McIlrath was ripping Randell’s helmet off in a scrum.
(Dear NHL: people like to see this stuff. Thank you.)
Since he has a one-way contract, if cut, McIlrath will see waivers. He cannot simply be sent back down to Hartford. It seems likely that given his size and recent improvements under Wolf Pack Assistant Coach Jeff Beukeboom’s tutelage, he will find a place to play.
It is possible for Vigneault to opt to carry an eighth defenseman to rotate as a healthy scratch in the 23rd roster spot, but that’s unlikely. AV has said he wants to bring 22 guys into opening night and that is probably what he’ll do.
Lastly, there is…