Brady Skjei proving to be an X-factor on defense

Skjei (Bruce Bennet/Getty Images)

Skjei (Bruce Bennet/Getty Images)

Brady Skjei’s star is on the rise

How much fun has this season been so far? Of course, we’re only 11 games in. But one thing is certain: these guys are really good.

One thing that comes with wins is praise. When your team is getting points, everything is OK. Another thing winning allows for is longer leashes on young, inexperienced albeit talented players from the coaching staff.

Brady Skjei is a player that had to shake off some ugly showings in the preseason. The start to his full-time NHL career, though, has been nothing short of magnificent.

“Coming into the year I felt confident that I could play at this level, come in and make plays, and I would say preseason wasn’t the way I wanted to play.” Skjei told reporters post-game on Thursday. “Just trying to get back to that skating game, moving the puck, gaining confidence that I can do it out there.”

Skjei’s assist on Jesper Fast‘s game tying goal on Thursday night was a perfect homage to the things that have made the young defenseman successful in this early campaign. He was assertive at the offensive blue-line, keeping a bouncing puck from slipping past and forcing the Rangers offside.

Then without hesitation, Skjei took three smooth strides and found himself right in the middle of an offensive scoring chance. While he wasn’t on the receiving end of a shot-pass, like Fast, he forced the defense to recognize him as a scoring threat. This gave both Brandon Pirri and Jesper Fast the room they needed to make a play.

It was Skjei’s third straight game with an assist.

Skjei’s confidence is building, that much is for sure. His ice time has been increasing since the start of the season. The Minnesota native finished up with 16:21 TOI at even strength against the Oilers, his season high 5v5 ice-time.

Look for that number to continue to climb.

Other that team captain Ryan McDonagh, Skjei is far and away the best skater on the Rangers’ back end. He’s displayed an willingness– an eagerness even– to jump into the play offensively. More so this season than in abbreviated stints last year.

His ability to exit the zone with just a few long strides only is only complimented by his aptness to carry the puck over the opposing blue-line. Skjei is the Rangers’ second best every day defenseman when it comes to playing with the puck on his stick.

Should Skjei’s game continue to climb, the Rangers will reap the rewards of having a McDonagh-lite to skate with opponents’ speedier forwards.