Dylan McIlrath headlines New York Rangers junior prospects

By Leslie Treff
Photo: Dylan McIlrath leads a tough-minded group of CHL prospects for the New York Rangers. (Photo courtesy of www.whl.ca)

Dylan McIlrath leads an impressive group of ten junior Rangers prospects this season, including seven on the team’s top 20-prospect list. In addition to McIlrath, who projects to be a take-no-prisoners skilled defenseman, it is a diverse group, with several smaller, highly skilled forwards as well as bigger, tougher grinding forwards. All of the junior prospects are playing in the CHL during the 2010-11 season, including four centers, three wingers, two blueliners, and one goaltender.

WHL

Dylan McIlrath, D, Moose Jaw Warriors
Acquired: 1st round (10th overall) in 2010
April 20th 1992. Ht: 6’4 Wt: 212 lbs

Still filling out at 6’4, 212 lbs, the Rangers put a lot of faith in McIlrath when they selected him 10th overall at last summer’s draft. Big and tough, with excellent skating ability and good stick work, the Rangers picked a big blueliner, who is not afraid to challenge his opponents. After posting 24 points (7 goals, 17 assists) in 65 games last season with Moose Jaw (while accumulating 169 PIM and a plus-20 ratio), McIlrath began the season slowly this year. Named alternate captain for the Warriors for the 2010-11 campaign, the Winnipeg native caught fire in October, fighting and posting six points in as many games. However, he suffered a knee injury in mid-November in a game against Lethbridge, which kept McIlrath out of action for more several weeks. In his first game back, McIlrath fought and got an assist, and overall this season has registered 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 28 games, with four fights and a plus-two.

McIlrath is expected to develop slowly, and although the temptation is to evaluate him game-by-game, he will have ups and downs in his development toward the NHL. It is expected to be at least two more seasons before he will compete for an NHL roster spot.

Roman Horak, C, Chilliwack Bruins
Acquired: 5th round (127th overall) in 2009
May 21st 1991. Ht: 6’0 Wt: 170 lbs

After being a late round Rangers selection in 2009, Horak came over to the Traverse City Rookie Tournament that September, a surprise performer in the tournament, Horak went on to prove during the 2009-10 regular season that his Traverse City performance was no fluke. He joined the Chilliwack Bruins of the WHL and became one of the offensive leaders on the team. Horak posted 21 goals and 26 assists in 66 games during the 2009-10 regular season, good for eighth overall in rookie scoring.

A clutch forward, excellent on both sides of the puck, Horak played on the wing for almost the entire 2009-10 season. With higher expectations for him going into this season, and still on the wing, Horak has not disappointed.

After another excellent Traverse City tournament (in which he spent most of the time at center), the young Czech returned to Chilliwack and has continued to post outstanding numbers for the Bruins. In 30 games thus far, he has registered 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists), including two game winning goals.

Expected to become a third-line player in the NHL, Horak should be ready for the professional game next fall, where he most likely will play at least one year in the AHL.

Randy McNaught, RW, Vancouver Giants
Acquired: 7th round (190th overall) in 2010
August 5th 1990. Ht: 6’4 Wt: 217 lbs

The Rangers selected "tough guy" McNaught with their last pick in this past summer’s entry draft. McNaught played for both the Chilliwack Bruins and the Blades during the 2009-10 season, posting 12 points (six goals, six assists), a minus-six, as well as 163 penatly minutes in 65 regular season games. McNaught, who is known not to back down from anyone, engaged in 20 fights during the regular season. The Rangers brought the 20-year old to their main camp this past fall to get him acclimated to the team’s system, and after watching him, determined that McNaught was not ready for professional play. Eligible to return to the WHL for an overage season, McNaught began the season with a new team-the Vancouver Giants. However, McNaught started only eight games before injuring his ankle and has not yet returned to play. In his eight games, he did register three fights, a goal, and an assist.

OHL

Ethan Werek, C, Kingston Frontenacs
Acquired: 2nd round (47th overall) in 2009
June 7th, 1991. Ht: 6’1 Wt: 189 lbs

After an impressive development camp and Traverse City Rookie Tournament this past summer, Werek’s name was on the Rangers’ brass minds coming into main training camp this past fall. From his first hits and strong work along the boards, the buzz grew louder. But Werek was felled by a knee injury that took him out of camp early on and had him on the bench into the OHL Kingston Fronts regular season.

Werek, who was captain of the Fronts and second in scoring during the 2009-10 regular season (63 points in 57 games), is no stranger to injuries. In fact, Werek’s season was cut short prematurely by a torn ACL, after being sidelined for several games earlier in the year with hip issues.

Werek returned to action in October, and posted 18 points (nine goals, nine assists), including three game-winning goals, in 12 games that month. Werek was assistant captain for Team AHL in the Subway Super Series played against Russia last month, and although Werek has not continued on his early scoring tear, he was still registering over a point per game (30 points in 27 games) before being felled by a hand injury on December 10.

Werek is expected to turn pro after this season and to compete for an NHL roster spot in the fall of 2011-12.

Christian Thomas, RW, Oshawa Generals
Acquired: 2nd round (40th overall) in 2010
May 26th 1992. Ht: 5’9 Wt: 166 lbs

Thomas was drafted earlier than expected by the Rangers, and he has responded to that by having a tremendous season in the OHL. A winger with smooth, soft hands, an excellent shot, good speed, and a tremendous work ethic, Thomas posted 66 points (41 goals, 25 assists) in 64 regular season games last season, leading the Generals in goals and points. He is once again leading the team in total points and goals, now at almost a 1.5 pts per game pace (30 games, 25 goals, 42 points). Currently in the top 20 in OHL scoring, playing fewer games than almost every player above him, Thomas was named the OHL Player of the Week from November 15-21.

The diminutive son of former NHLer Steve Thomas is expected to spend at least one more season in the OHL prior to beginning his professional career.

Andrew Yogan, C, Erie Otters
Acquired: 4th Round (100th overall) in 2010
December 4th
1991. Ht: 6’3 Wt: 203 lbs

As a youth, Yogan was one of the most highly prized prospects ever out of Coral Springs, Florida. His rookie season, as a member of the Windsor Spitfires, was not a successful one, and early into the 2008-09 season, Yogan was traded to Erie. It was a better fit with the Otters, where the Floridian posted almost a point a game to finish the season. Last season was another successful one scoring-wise, but there were questions about his overall development, which caused Yogan to fall in the draft. The Rangers selected him in the fourth round and were unaware when he was drafted that Yogan had sustained a serious shoulder injury in the spring of 2010. The severity of the injury was discovered at camp this fall, and Yogan underwent surgery to correct the problem. Yet to play for the Otters this fall, Yogan’s return to junior hockey is still several weeks away.

Daniel Maggio, D, Oshawa Generals
Acquired: 6th round (170th overall) in 2009
March 4th 1991. Ht: 6’2; Wt: 191 lbs

A former OHL Player of the Month in February of 2010, Maggio has had a very difficult hockey season thus far this year. Traded quite recently from the Guelph Storm to the Oshawa Generals (for OHL picks), Maggio had only appeared in 12 games for the Storm, and had been sent home by the team because of team issues and to recover from his latest injury (an ankle).

After recording 31 points (nine goals, 22 assists) in 66 games for the Sudbury Wolves last year, and being named the team’s best defenseman for the 2009-10 season, much was expected of Maggio. Instead, to start 2010-11, he missed nine games with an upper body injury, then was suspended for two games for a hit to the head from behind on a much smaller player. Then the current ankle injury, which has not yet been resolved.

It is hoped that a new start in Oshawa is what Maggio needs to turn the season around, as he only has until June to impress the Rangers enough to offer him an entry-level contract.

Scott Stajcer, G, Owen Sound Attack
Acquired: 5th round (140th overall) in 2009
June 14th, 1991. Ht: 6’3 Wt: 195 lbs

This was supposed to be Stajcer’s year to shine, as he finally has a good team to play in front of him, and he was the clear number-one netminder to start the season. Upon return from the Rangers training camp this fall, Stajcer won his first eight starts. A couple of bad games followed, but Stajcer played an outstanding second half in one of the OHL games in the Subway super series.

Since the middle of November, Stajcer has been out with a "lower body injury", which he sustained in a game against the Mississauga St. Mike’s Majors on November 20th. He will reportedly undergo surgery this coming week and be out for at least six to eight more weeks. Hopefully, more details will be revealed after the surgery, but at this point, after a shaky last year, an entry-level contract for Stajcer is very much up in the air.

Jason Wilson, LW, Niagara IceDogs
Acquired: 5th round (130th overall) in 2010
April 15th, 1990. Ht: 6’2 Wt: 205 lbs

Currently the leader for the most penalty minutes on the IceDogs, Wilson likes to fight and protect the skilled players on his team. One of several tough guys selected by the Rangers in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Wilson has not continued to put up the offensive numbers he posted last season, but he did pot one game-winning goal in October and has six assists in eight December games thus far.

An older draftee, Wilson is an OHL overager this season and will have to show more offensive prowess to earn an entry-level contract from the Rangers by June 2011. He will most likely play on an AHL deal next season, while the Rangers continue to monitor his development.

QMJHL

Ryan Bourque, C, Quebec Remparts
Acquired: 3rd Round (60th overall) in 2009
January 3rd, 1991. Ht: 5’9 Wt: 168 lbs

Currently with the US U20 World Junior Championship team camp, there are high expectations that Bourque will be named to the team for the second straight year. One of the most exciting offensive playmakers the Rangers have drafted in the last five years, Bourque decided to forego college and join the Remparts for the 2009-10 season. After finishing last season 10th overall in QMJHL rookie scoring (43 points in 44 games) and ranking sixth in scoring on the Remparts, Bourque is once again posting big offensive numbers for Quebec this season. Playing almost exclusively as a left wing for the Remparts, in 27 games, Bourque has registered 39 points (20 goals, 19 assists), including seven goals in six games this month prior to leaving for the US junior camp.

After suffering a neck injury and two concussions last season, Bourque had an "upper body injury" already this season. If he can stay healthy, Bourque will remain a top prospect for the Rangers, but he needs to continue getting stronger and stay health to make a successful leap to the professional game next season.

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