Just spent a few minutes looking at fight videos featuring nasty 17-year-old Moose Jaw defenseman Dylan McIlrath, who just be on every fan's draft wishlist for their NHL team, whether they're picking 1st or 30th (Toronto fans need not apply here- you're not getting him).
The first thing that struck me about the footage is that more than a few of the fights occurred after McIlrath destroyed an opposing player with a booming open-ice hit, usually followed by another teammate coming to their defense.
The second thing is that in just about every video save for one of the two fights against Brandon's Jordan Hale, McIlrath always seems to get his opponent's helmet off first, allowing him to pound away without too much fear of breaking his hand, whereas his opponents often have to fight him while his helmet and visor are still on. Now, before you fight enthusiasts rail away at the breaking of the "code" by McIlrath, remember that the WHL passed a silly rule penalizing any player who removes his own helmet before a fight. The net effect of this rule means that the player who is more adept at getting his opponent's bucket off first usually has a sizeable edge in the bout. McIlrath appears to have these skills down pat.
Like all accomplished hockey fighters, he's strong on his skates. You can see bigger opponents trying to ragdoll him and pull him off balance, but he does a nice job of standing in there and taking their best shots.
He looks like a power puncher. Although the footage wasn't great, he blasted Brett Breitkreuz, then of the Edmonton Oil Kings, with an uppercut that gashed the WHL veteran three years McIlrath's senior pretty good. When you see him coming over the top of an opponent's head with right-handed haymakers, you just feel for the guy on the receiving end. Not convinced, well, check out the fight he had with John Stampohar, then with the Kamloops Blazers, all 6-foot-4, 210 pounds of Minnesota farmkid. When Stampohar got McIlrath's jersey up over his head, the Monster from Winnipeg, despite not being able to see very well, one-punched his opponent to the ice. You can see a dazed Stampohar sitting in the penalty box afterward, putting his face into a towel and clearly wondering how it all happened.
McIlrath, aka the "Freight Train from Winnipeg" (h/t to Moose Jaw radio play-by-play man James Gallo, who sounds like a major junior version of Washington Caps and Versus commentator Joe Beninati, btw) is primarily a right-handed thrower, but in a couple of fights, he switches to his left and starts working the south paw like a piston into his surprised opponent.
Now, again- McIlrath doesn't have the upside of a legitimate top two-way defenseman in this league, but he's a decent enough skater to play that shutdown, in-your-face, physical defense. And, make no mistake- this kid can really fight. When you start looking up the ages of opponents he's fought and prevailed over, these guys have 2-3 years of physical maturity and experience on him. He even pounded Regina's Colten Teubert to the ice with a couple of rights in a quick bout...Teubert is 2 years older and a pretty tough customer in his own right not to mention being a first-round pick of the L.A. Kings.
I can see why he's being talked about so much right now. Just think how much more effective McIlrath will be when he gains about 15-20 pounds and learns how to be an even better fighter than he already is. Legitimate toughness and hockey ability is a coveted trait for any NHL club, so don't be surprised if he ends up going a good bit higher than the projections say.
You, too, can see for yourself. Head on over to YouTube and type his name into the search engine. Then, as T.O. once said, "Getcha popcorn ready!"
P.S. Oh, and I'm sure Boston fans will take note of what number McIlrath wears. If he does somehow end up playing in the black and gold one day, he'll have to get another one.