Once again I want to give a tremendous thanks to the New York Rangers organization and their PR Department (especially John Rosasco) who helped me interview Gordie Clark about the upcoming Traverse City tournament and about some of the prospects within the Rangers organization. I would also like to thank Gordie, who gave a fantastic interview and took a significant amount of time out of his day to answer all of my questions.
Another topic breached in my 30-minute interview with Clark was the situation with former first-round pick Dylan McIlrath.
Join me after the jump for that story:
When the Rangers selected Dylan McIlrath with the 10th overall pick back in 2010 there was a collective "who" released by the Rangers' faithful. After a full year within the Rangers system, there are questions over wether or not McIlrath can make a major impact in New York in the future.
Gordie Clark, Director of Player Personnel for the New York Rangers, isn't worried about McIlraths development. When McIlrath was drafted he was brought in to add snarl and size to a blue line that has been void of such luxuries for years.
The best part? McIlrath not only knows that his physicality is vital to his future success in the NHL, he wants to do it the right way.
"He just has a tremendous development path," Clark said. "He is obviously going to be a very physical player, and he was clear with the fact that he couldn't just pump a lot of iron and get better. He wanted his body to mature naturally. And when he came into camp this year everything, I mean the shoulders, the back and the chest, everything just started to pop. He's much bigger and he's much thicker."
Writers have been questioning McIlrath's mobility since he was drafted, although a strong second half in this past OHL season silenced many of the critics.
"He's a very mobile player," Clark said. "I have been reading articles questioning his mobility and I can't understand why. He's always been a very good skater for a big man, he's a very natural skater and he's very mobile. I don't understand why people are only saying 'oh, now he is a better skater, because he always was. That's one of the things we loved about him."
Mobility is an invaluable tool, especially for a defenseman. Great imposing physical defenseman aren't just mean and tough, they are quick enough to get to where you are and stop you from doing anything productive in the offensive zone.
These are traits Clark has seen, and likes, from McIlrath.
"In today's game, as a defenseman, you have to be able to anticipate where the forward is going to go and you better have the feet to get in front of him, because that's the only way you're allowed to do it in the game," Clark said.
While his offensive numbers don't jump out at you, causing many to simply write him off as a bad pick, he played an incredibly well rounded game at the end of last season. It was enough to catch Clark's eye,
"We thought he was the most improved prospect for us in the second half of the season this year because he started playing more and he started moving the puck better," he said. "If his puck game improves in another year as much as it did this past year then he is going to be everything we thought he was going to be."
Comparisons to Cam Fowler, at least from a player-to-player perspective, don't make much sense. They're two different players and the Rangers drafted for a need rather than taking another guy with offensive upside. I would warn all of you who are awed by his numbers, they're similar to what Michael Del Zotto did his rookie year.
That's not to say that Del Zotto isn't going to be a great player, he might be. That's also not to say that Fowler's second season won't be successful, it might be. It's just to say that the Rangers knew what they were passing up to get McIlrath, and they were excited when they got him. And by the looks of things, Clark, and the organization, are even more excited now.