Dylan McIlrath suffered a knee injury a few days before Christmas. He recently started skating again, according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post.
Before the injury, McIlrath had posted three goals and four assists in 26 games, while racking up an astonishing 119 penalty minutes and posting a minus-three.
In two NHL games, McIlrath showed plenty of toughness when throwing down with heavyweight Brian McGrattan of the Calgary Flames, but he also showed that he's still a work in progress in his own zone.
In my view, McIlrath tops out a fourth or fifth defenseman, a guy who can clear the crease and knock some heads. There's nothing wrong with that. Every team needs that. It just has to annoy Rangers fans that they could have selected Cam Fowler, who was chosen by the Anaheim Ducks two picks after McIlrath in the 2010 draft.
McIlrath does have a chance to make the NHL next year. On the call-up list, he's behind Conor Allen. But with Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman slated to be unrestricted free agents in the offseason, and with John Moore, Justin Falk and Michael Del Zotto slated to be restricted free agents in the offseason, there's a good chance that McIlrath will lock down a spot next year.
This season, though, he's probably best served improving in the AHL.