I'm not ready to say he won't be as good as Staal. I think Staal has slipped with his defensive game the past couple years and he's never been good offensively. McIlrath is still incredibly young. He hasn't even played 40 games in the AHL. Remember, his game is much better in a league like the AHL and NHL. In junior, he just destroys these 170 wimps and they feel sorry for him and suspend him for any big hit. In the AHL or NHL, nobody is going to feel sorry a 200 to 220 pound guy if McIlrath lays him out with a huge hit.
I don't think you can really say Staal slipped the last couple years, he had a limited season last year and to be honest he seemed to be the only one in the playoffs able to carry the puck out of our own end. Staal is still an excellent defenseman and we'll benefit from having him around for the whole year next year, hopefully Sauer is able to play as well. The problem with saying McIlrath is destroying junior players is that he's a man among kids and while he's pushing kids around, things will be different when he's playing against men. I do think McIlrath is gonna be a good player for us but expecting him to be as good as Staal is a little too high of an expectation, I'd be happy if he could be a physical shutdown guy that could play anywhere in the bottom 4 d. I'd really like to see Girardi and Staal back together next year, with McDonagh and DelZotto together.