It’s pretty simple.
With the Rangers looking to retool a little bit, making Keith Yandle now sunning himself in South Beach and Dan Boyle now doing things retired people do, the Rangers will need a few defensemen to fill the roles.
So over the summer, they traded for Nick Holden of the Avalanche and also have a few youngsters like Brady Skjei and John Gilmour that look pretty promising.
But still on the club and looking to be part of this mix is Dylan McIlrath, someone who may have been forgotten as the Rangers were changing it up this past summer.
The 24 year-old is looking for a full time job with this club. Thought for years to be a one-dimensional fighter that no longer has a role in the NHL, McIlrath has worked hard to improve other parts of his game this past off-season.
“I don’t think I have ever been a one dimensional player,” he said after tonight 3-1 preseason Ranger win over the Devils at Madison Square Garden. “It comes natural to me but I think every summer and every year, I take pride in my skating and my hands, as much as possible. I want to learn and I want to take as much as the coaches. I take pride in that.”
Last year, McIlrath was kept in the NHL in the beginning of the season because he was out of options and the Rangers would have lost him if he was put through waivers. However, as the year went along, the former first round pick, started to play up to his abilities and received playing time when there were holes on the defense due to injuries.
That doesn’t mean he is assured a role as of right now. Skjei is known as the puck moving defenseman in more of the mold of a Yandle or Boyle and tonight Gilmour showed he can shine with goal and an assist on the power play.
So McIlrath knows there won’t be a coronation for the role.
“They bring a couple of guys in who have NHL experience too,” McIralth said. “It’s never given to me, I have to earn my stripes this off-season, but there’s an opportunity to earn the top six, I am looking forward to it.”
That’s good and he definitely has the coach’s attention, with Alain Vigneault giving No. 6 every opportunity to make this club.
“There’s no doubt there’s an improvement,” Vigneault said. “Dylan is more confident in his abilities and trying to make plays defensively. He’s using his long reach and using his strength and he has to do that moving forward.”
But McIlrath is taking nothing for granted.
“My goal, first and foremost, is to make the team in the top six,” he said. “I still have to prove myself in camp. I have to make sure I have to make the most of the exhibition games and to prove to the coaches I can fill the role.”
McIlrath will have a role on this team. The Rangers will lose him is they put him on waivers, because some team will pick him up. He also brings an edge to the club and can fill a role like Dan Girardi had before his skills started diminishing.
And he’s a guy who is getting better, while still keeping an edge that is important when you have some of these tougher division games during the season.
It’s just that simple.