Future Ranger: Brady Skjei
Brady Skjei was the Rangers 1st round pick in 2012. At 28th overall the Rangers were putting their money into another mobile American player with big upside. Hockey’s Future has him ranked as the Rangers top defensive prospect. Their biggest point is that his offensive game after joining the NCAA with the University of Minnesota improved dramatically.
Below I will break down what Skjei’s strengths and weaknesses are as a player, my opinion on his future, and how he may fit into the Rangers plans.
Brady Skjei on the US team. Image provided by Nhlmockdraft.org
Strengths: Skjei’s best asset is his skating ability. Not just his flat out speed but his ability to transition, keep pace with speedy forwards, and recover even when he makes mistakes. This is particularly impressive considering he is 6’3 205 pounds. He has good vision and the ability to outlet the puck. Skjei’s entire game is built from his legs, his skating allows him to create lanes and get shots through. Skjei has shown improvements in his offensive game since getting to the NCAA. In 2012-2013 he posted only 3 points in 36 games. However the following year his totals jumped to 14 points in 40 games. Since being drafted Skjei has been compared to Ryan McDonagh mostly for his skating. He has the rangy style to his game he also covers a ton of ice.
Weaknesses: Skjei isn’t physical enough for a guy with his size and power. He also isn’t particularly good on the power play. His shot is average and he isn’t overly creative in the offensive zone.
The Road There: The Rangers top 6 is basically decided for the upcoming 2014-2015 season. Ahead of Skjei in the system are Dylan McIlrath and Connor Allen as they have some NHL experience. With McDonagh as the anchor of the teams defense the only way that Skjei will be able to crack the lineup will be if Staal doesn’t resign, or if John Moore leaves or is traded in the years to come. The good news for Skjei is he has at least 2 more years of seasoning before he has to worry about cracking the NHL lineup. Skjei will complete his junior year with the University of Minnesota and then will consider turning pro. I would fully expect the Rangers to force Skjei to play a full season in the AHL before they consider him in the NHL just so they can see how he plays in a heavier league.
My Projection: I have Skjei making the Rangers roster in 2017-2018. He has the frame and skating ability to play at the NHL level. I suspect in the years to come the Rangers will be looking to get younger on the back end which will make Skjei an ideal option. I wouldn’t worry about Skjei’s lack of physical play. The top defensemen in the league are skating defensemen. With the speed today the “physical defensemen” are loosing value.
Below I have posted some videos of Skjei in action as well as some other analysis of his play.
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