You might remember when I interviewed Rangers legend Rod Gilbert back in February. Well, this time we’re looking towards the future. The Moose Jaw Warriors were kind enough to get us in contact with 2010 Rangers first round selection Dylan McIlrath, and Dylan was awesome enough to do an interview with us. Keep reading to see our interview with him and what he had to say about his brief stint in the AHL, his newly signed contract, a meeting with a special former Ranger, and much more!
Adam: What is different about going through a WHL season while being property of the Rangers, as opposed to in prior seasons where you were undrafted?
Dylan: A lot is different. During draft year, all eyes are on you. All scouts are analyzing your play. This year, you’re just being watched by one team and you’re trying to impress them. When you’re 17 there’s a lot of hype; prospect games, the combine, the overall excitement. Now it’s just down to business.
Adam: How often do you have contact with Rangers coaches and scouts? Do they influence your development during the season or do they mostly let Moose Jaw handle it?
Dylan: They really let Moose Jaw handle it. Adam Graves came a few times. He was great to talk to about the game or even just take a break from it and talk about whatever. They usually just let me develop and let me be. When I had my knee injury they flew me down and I met some of the management. But other than contract talks there wasn’t much.
Adam: Many people were surprised that you were chosen over other defensemen like Cam Fowler or Brandon Gormley, and you even said yourself that you were a bit surprised. Do some people’s claims that the Rangers made a mistake motivate you to prove them wrong or do they not even enter your mind at all?
Dylan: You can’t get around hearing things, like the comparisons to Fowler. But that has nothing to do with me and just the way it is. I try not to put added pressure on myself and control what I can. I’m just worried about making the Rangers. It doesn’t change my mindset.
Adam: You recently signed an entry-level contract with the Rangers. What was the motivation for you and the Rangers to get a professional contract signed? Was it more of a formality or does management think you have a legitimate shot of making the team next year?
Dylan: Word I got was that they’re happy with my development, they’ve seen enough. That they have nothing anymore they need to see to sign me, so we might as well get it over with and get off on the right foot. It doesn’t guarantee me a spot by any means, but I’m just glad to get the deal done. Now I can just focus on playing hockey.
Adam: Last season your knee injury prevented you from challenging for a spot on Canada for the World Junior Championships. Does that motivate you to really push for a spot this year? What would making the team mean to you?
Dylan: With World Juniors… I haven’t really gotten an opportunity to represent them or go to a camp, but it’s one of my goals. First to make the summer camp, and then go from there. I want to have a good season and hopefully I can make the camp roster in December. It’s definitely one of my goals this year but right now I’m just worried about doing my summer work and training for the season.
Adam: You had a brief stint in Connecticut at the end of the year on an Amateur Tryout. What did you learn in your time there and what did you notice about the game? Did anyone give you tips?
Dylan: Definitely an adjustment. The speed and pace of the game is way higher than in Juniors. The biggest difference for me was the decision making. I tried to pick the defensive coach’s (J.J. Daigneault) brain as much as I could, but he was busy with the playoffs. So I was just worried about looking at everything shift-by-shift. Not to take away from my coaching at Moose Jaw, but being in different situations at the professional level was a great experience.
Adam: What part of your game do you feel you need to work on the most?
Dylan: Well I think i’ve peaked in my growing [laughs]. I’d like to add some leg strength. I just want to add some muscle by working in the gym and just grow into my body. On the ice… you can never be quick enough and have good enough hands so just working on that and refining my game all around. I learned that everyone at the next level is basically good at everything so I just need to improve as much as possible to earn a spot.
Adam: I know you’re from Winnipeg. There’s been a lot of talk in recent days about moving a team there. Do you think the city is ready to host an NHL team again?
Dylan: Absolutely! There’s been a lot of buzz around the NHL coming back for a while. It’s exciting to be in Winnipeg when it’s happening. The people in Winnipeg are really excited and it’s such a hockey town so I think they can support a team for sure. So I’m excited to see what happens.
Once again, thanks to Dylan for taking time out of his day to talk to me. It was very clear by the tone of his voice and how he spoke that, while he’s certainly excited to be part of an NHL organization, he especially is grateful that he is a member of the New York Rangers. I think it was also great to see that he understands that he needs to grow into his body and put the work in the make that possible. We can compare him to Fowler, but they really aren’t very comparable at all. It took big, physical defensemen such as Shea Weber, Zdeno Chara, and Jeff Beukeboom multiple years before they truly rounded out their game and became a force in the NHL. Fowler was clearly the more ready prospect out of the draft, but if all goes as expected with Dylan then the Rangers are going to have an absolute monster on their blue line.