The youth movement that began several years ago on Broadway became a little brighter today as the New York Rangers signed 2010 first-round pick Dylan McIlrath and 2009 third-round pick Ryan Bourque to entry-level contracts.
McIllrath, the defenseman nicknamed The Undertaker, has five goals, 18 assists and 141 penalty minutes for Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League this season. The Rangers opted for him over highly-ranked defenseman Cam Fowler at last year's draft because of McIlrath's physical demeanor, something that hasn't been seen on a Ranger blue line since Jeff Beukeboom retired over a decade ago.
McIlrath currently stands 6'5", tipping the scale at 215 pounds, but is only 18 years old. The Rangers hope his body continues to develop. If he does not make the team out of camp next season, expect him to spend the season in the AHL, and that isn't a bad thing.
Bourque, son of NHL-legend Ray Bourque, has had success playing for Quebec in the QMJHL, scoring 26 goals with 31 assists this season with a plus-14 rating. At 5'9", 170 pounds, the Rangers obviously hope he can put on some muscle between now and September.
Bourque won a gold medal at the 2009 World Junior Championship alongside Rangers rookie sensation Derek Stepan. In 2010, Bourque brought home one more medal at the WJC, helping the USA capture the bronze.
Both players broke the top 50 NHL prospects in The Hockey News in February. McIlrath was ranked No. 50, with Bourque breaking the top 10, finishing at No. 9. Another Rangers prospect, Chris Kreider, was ranked No. 18. He is currently playing at Boston College and is sidelined with a broken jaw.
Reports have also been leaking that another top Rangers prospect Carl Hagelin plans to sign a contract with the organization once his college season ends in April. Hagelin currently plays his college hockey at Michigan.
Rangers fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming years. These four players, along with Christian Thomas, son of former NHLer Steve Thomas, are shaping up to be key pieces to the team in the future.
Infusing this young talent with the already established young core of Marc Staal, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan McDonagh and several others, shows the Rangers are building a top-caliber team the right way: from within.
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