[Editor's note: The Vancouver Canucks currently own six picks - including the 1st round, 25th overall pick - in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. In this week leading to Friday's draft, Matt Lee previews some potential Canucks picks.]
Team: Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Weight: 212 pounds
Central Scouting Ranking: 17th among North American Skaters
THN Ranking: 26th
In a word, Dylan McIlrath is tough.
As a third round pick of the Moose Jaw Warriors in the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft, not a lot of experts had pegged McIlrath as much more than a rugged blueliner who would eventually be drafted by an NHL team in 2010. Few, at the time, had “The Undertaker” projected as a potential first round selection, as McIlrath is expected to become this week.
The Winnipeg native hits like a freight train and isn’t afraid to stick up for his teammates, a point which was emphasized in the 2010 CHL Top Prospects game where McIlrath got into a spirited battle with Red Deer Rebels defender Alex Petrovic, eventually tagging his opponent with a few rights for the take down.
No one in this year’s draft is as tough as McIlrath. Had Boston Bruins forward and former Vancouver Giants star Milan Lucic been a defenseman, this is what he would be. McIlrath is just that tough. He racked up 271 penalty minutes in his first two WHL seasons and had 19 fighting majors last season alone.
But more recently, scouts have had a chance to see the blueliner’s offensive game. Headed into the Christmas break last season, McIlrath had zero points, but finished the year with seven goals and 24 points in 65 games. So there is certainly room for the rugged defenseman’s offensive game to develop if the opportunity presents itself.
McIlrath cites Shea Weber as his favourite NHL player, and while it’s extremely difficult to compare anyone to the Canadian Olympian, McIlrath does play a similar game. He imposes his will with his sheer grit and toughness and has a cannon from the point which can find the back of the net.
However, the simplicity of McIlrath’s game does have some scouts worried as to what his ceiling would be in the NHL. Critics fear that McIlrath is a boom or bust type of prospect, who will either make it to the NHL as a top four defenseman or a complete bust.
From a Vancouver Canucks standpoint, the Canucks have a few defensemen like Kevin Connauton (Vancouver Giants) who have the ability to produce offense from the point but don’t have a polished defensive game. McIlrath cites current Canuck blueliner Willie Mitchell as another one of his influences, and Vancouver could certainly use a big bodied presence to fill out their backend when needed.
They said it: “An old school defensemen who plays hard and very physical. A great deal of untapped potential that can be used in shut down situations as well as on the offensive side of the puck.” – Moose Jaw Warriors head coach Dave Hunchak