The changes on the blue line the New York Rangers have made this season has increased the responsibility for defenseman Brady Skjei.
New York Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei is about to wrap up his second full year with the team. When this season began no one, including Skjei, would have thought he would be considered a veteran on the team.
As the season has gone forward, the defensemen on the team have changed drastically. Gone are Ryan McDonagh, Nick Holden, Brendan Smith, Steven Kampfer and the injured Kevin Shattenkirk who has been out of the lineup since surgery in January. The new names we now see on the team are named Neal Pionk, John Gilmour, Ryan Sproul and along with the help of Marc Staal, Skjei has taken these kids under his wing on and off the ice.
Skjei spoke with Matt Calamia of NYRangers.com about his newly found veteran role.
“It’s definitely more of a leadership role,” Skjei said. “Obviously not on the same level as Marc, but coming into the year, I was the young guy and then throughout the year, things have changed.”
Marc Staal is the other veteran defenseman on this squad with 759 NHL games played and is the player Skjei continues to look to for help and guidance on the team.
Skjei and Staal have both taken on the opportunity to help the young defensemen during this difficult season. Staal has recently been paired with Neal Pionk and the defenseman has made great strides since his call-up.
Staal had some fun calling Skjei the old guy on the team as he spoke about the progression of the speedy defenseman,
“I think he went from a young guy to one of the old guys pretty quick,” Staal joked of Skjei. “For him he’s 23, 24 and has a couple years under his belt. He’s got some experience. He’s a really talented player. He’s going to be a guy who’s going to be looked upon to do more of that for sure.
Staal went on to say he is confident Skjei can get the job done,
“It may be asking a lot early on,” he continued, “but it’s the situation we’re in. I think he’s ready for that.”
Defenseman John Gilmour has been playing well since his call-up. He credits his own progression on watching and learning from Brady Skjei during games.
“I definitely watch the way he plays,” Gilmour said of Skjei. “I admire the way he plays. He’s such a great skater and he’s very skilled, the way he gets up the ice. When he’s playing at the top of his game, it’s very fun to watch. As a defenseman who is new to the league, I’m definitely watching a guy like him more carefully.”
Brady Skjei understands these young guys are looking up to him and seems to be enjoying his new role.
“I’ve kind of been put into that role where if I have anything to tell these guys, I let them know,” he said. “They’re good players. They know what they’re doing and they know how to play. I’m here for any questions they may have.”
Skjei is the future of the Rangers blueline and along with Pionk and Gilmour, should be here for many years to come.