Dylan McIlrath – Moose Jaw Warriors – WHL 6’5″ 215 lbs.
The Colorado Avalanche has had a problem filling the need for a # 1 defenseman since Rob Blake opted for free agency back in 2006.
In those four years, never was it more apparent than when the San Jose Sharks manhandled us in the playoffs this year. I’m not talking about dominating the series itself (though they did a pretty good job of that too), I’m talking about the physical play. All six of the games we played against each other, they proved to be the bigger, stronger, meaner team on the ice, time and time again. At the beginning of the season, I thought we might’ve found one in Kyle Quincey, though his play dropped dramatically as the season wore on. He’s still one of our best defenseman, but that just highlights the fact that if we want a chance to make some noise in the playoffs, we’re going to need to get a little bit bigger, and a lot meaner.
Enter Dylan McIlrath.
McIlrath is an imposing specimen at 6’5″, and with over 270 penalty minutes in his two seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors, he has proven to be a real mean SOB, too.
He is a defensive defenseman in the truest sense of the word. His name isn’t going to show up on the boxscore too often (he scored 7 goals and 24 points last season), but he also does a pretty good job of making sure his opponents don’t either. Along with his impressive PIM output, McIlrath was a +20 last season as well.
Of course, the risk of taking a hulking, nasty defender in the first round is that we might be using that crucial pick for somebody who could ultimately end up as a simple spare part enforcer. Scott Parker, if you’ll remember, had pretty impressive stats to go with his nasty streak in juniors as well. We picked him up, believe or not, in the 1st round of the 1998 Entry Draft, at #20 overall. Scott Parker was a forward, not a defenseman, but he never scored more than two goals for Colorado in any season. On the other hand, any sports fan knows that any so-called “sure thing” in a draft can ultimately blow up in your face (I’m looking at you, Oakland Raiders), and who knows? Maybe the chance to finally develop our own #1 defenseman is worth the risk. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing this team get a little nastier. In fact, I think it’s something that we absolutely need to see happen.
Getting somebody with a Pronger-esque intimidation factor manning the blue line for us would make the Avs a force to be reckoned with; it is the biggest missing piece on the current roster right now. If we do end up picking McIlrath at 17, we’ll have taken arguably the toughest player in the WHL.