New York Rangers top prospect Dylan McIlrath has been suspended 8 games by the Western Hockey League for his hit on Victoria Royals’ defenseman Jesse Zgraggen during last Wednesday’s game. The length of the suspension is likely not just a result of the hit itself but also the fact that McIlrath is a “repeat offender.” This is the second time this season that he’s been suspended.
Definitely not a good hit by McIlrath and he deserved the suspension. However, when watching replays of the hit you can see that there was no pre-meditated intent to target the head. He was simply trying to hit the guy hard but got his arm up way too high and hit Zgraggen in the head.
I would be a lot more concerned if McIlrath had skated half way across the rink with a clear intent to hit him up high. This is not a result of a lapse in judgement or a character issue but rather the result of faulty technique. That being said, it’s dangerous nonetheless. Neate Sager at Buzzing The Net does make an important point, though, that similarly big defensemen at the junior level have had similar suspensions. The humongous Erik Gudbranson, a third overall pick by the Panthers and currently in his rookie season with the team, was suspended twice by the OHL last season and Dougie Hamilton, also a big defenseman the 9th overall pick in last summer’s draft by the Bruins, just recently had a similar incident. Dylan’s ridiculous size and strength as well as his agressive tendencies can be a major advantage but it can also backfire on him, such as in this incident. He needs to learn how to properly use it and hit so that he can be a punishing force on the ice while staying with in the rules of the game. That will come with time.