When Dylan McIlrath was suiting up for the New York Rangers, fans loved his energy and passion. Unfortunately, management didn’t agree.
Late Tuesday afternoon, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that the New York Rangers made a trade that was seemingly in the works since training camp.
NYR trade Dylan McIlrath to FLA for Steve Kampfer and conditional 7th round pick.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) November 8, 2016
It was a quick rise for the defenseman — and an even quicker fall.
Sure, some may question the words used. After all, McIlrath was drafted 10th overall back in 2010 and spent a majority of his first five professional seasons in the AHL. During that time — spent with both the Connecticut Whale and Hartford Wolf Pack — McIlrath hardly resembled a top-ten draft pick. The D-Man potted just 12 goals while chipping in 27 assists and was more of a brawler than anything else. Despite two separate stints in the NHL in 2013-14 and 2014-15, he failed to make any sort of impact.
But once he was called up last season, McIlrath went from draft bust to fan favorite in the blink of an eye.
When veteran defenseman Kevin Klein was sidelined for two to three weeks last December, the 24-year old got his chance to play on a nightly basis. In 34 games, he scored just two goals while registering four total points. But Rangers fans didn’t care about his absence in the stat sheet.
New York fans love someone who embodies the city. Someone who is gritty, energetic, and gets the job done. Someone who will stand up for their teammates.
And that’s exactly what McIlrath brought to the table.
A ferocious hitter, he had no problem bouncing top players from other clubs against the boards. McIlrath was also a fan of dropping his mitts, and his Valentine’s Day fight against Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds — one that occurred after Simmonds sucker-punched and eventually concussed captain Ryan McDonagh on February 6 — made him a sure-fire fan favorite at Madison Square Garden.
McIlrath ended his campaign with 64 penalty minutes and a plus/minus of +7. He finally made it in the NHL. With Dan Boyle retired and Dan Girardi and Marc Staal declining, this past Training Camp was McIlrath’s first true test to prove that he was worthy of a starting spot.
Unfortunately, however, Alain Vigneault had other plans.
Sure, it wasn’t all the head coach’s fault. Both Girardi and Staal were healthy for the first time in years. Brady Skjei — arguably the best defenseman in the system — also impressed a year prior. GM Jeff Gorton traded for Nick Holden and signed Adam Clendening as well.
On top of that, McIlrath didn’t have the best of preseasons. Having to fight off the stiff competition of Skjei, Holden, and Clendening, his rugged style of play didn’t necessarily fit Vigneault’s playing style. The Rangers skipper didn’t believe McIlrath’s had the capable puck possession skills and quickness that was necessary to succeed in his system.
Thus, he was waived before Opening Night and demoted to the minors. Just a month later, he was banished from the organization for good.
Despite earning more minutes due to his performance last year, it won’t be happening with the Original Six franchise. Now, the Rangers are down a fighter. They’re down a player who lit up opponents like Times Square lights up Manhattan.
It was a quick fall from grace, but McIlrath never seemed to be a fit with the Rangers.
Only time will tell if he pans out in Miami.