Ahead of the Grand Rapids Griffins’ first-round series against the Manitoba Moose, the Winnipeg Free Press’s Mike Sawatsky penned a profile of Griffins defensemen Dylan McIlrath and Joe Hicketts:
In 2010, when Dylan McIlrath was drafted in the first round (10th overall) by the New York Rangers, he was a prime prospect and a prototypical shutdown defenceman.
He was big, a capable fighter with a nasty edge and a fearsome nickname (The Undertaker) — all qualities scouts savoured when he graduated from the Western Hockey League’s Moose Jaw Warriors.
Nearly eight years later, the way the game is played has changed dramatically, but McIlrath is still working to find permanent employment in the NHL. Traded twice last season (from the Rangers to the Florida Panthers to the Detroit Red Wings), the 25-year-old Winnipeg product has finally found a stable hockey home with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins, Detroit’s chief farm team.
He also hasn’t given up on his big-league aspirations.
“Last year, I bounced around — five different teams and three organizations — so it was a lot of hotels, a lot of people to get to know and different cities,” said McIlrath via telephone from Grand Rapids, where the Griffins were preparing for Game 1 of their first-round playoff series with the Manitoba Moose in Winnipeg on Saturday afternoon. “I was lucky to be in one place this year and I re-signed here because I love it here and knew I had a good opportunity in this organization to move up, hopefully.”