Defenseman Brady Skjei has the opportunity to make the New York Rangers his own and he might get this club back to the playoffs.
There has been plenty of talk of free agents, draft picks and European players joining the team. One player who has flown under the radar is New York Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei, but his time to shine has arrived.
A first-round draft pick, 28th overall, in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft Skjei has appeared in 247 games for the Blueshirts. He made his debut on Dec. 15, 2015, at Madison Square Garden in a game against the Edmonton Oilers.
The following season, he was a regular on the blueline, drawing comparisons to another great American skater—Brian Leetch. It’s a comparison that has had a tendency to hurt him more than helped him over his three year Rangers career.
General manager Jeff Gorton has confidence in the defenseman, so much so that when his contract expired at the end of the 2017-18 season, the club rewarded him with a six-year, $31.5-million extension. The organization proved their loyalty and commitment to Skjei when he was just 24.
Skjei has shown signs of brilliance, displaying hockey that comes with plenty of speed, physicality, and strong penalty killing. He has been partnered with just about every defenseman on the team over the last two seasons and with some adjustments, has shown he can play at the high level the team requires of him.
Yet, something has been missing from his game. Maintaining confidence comes to mind. Though stats aren’t the most important thing, his numbers should be better.
His career-high in points came during his first full season with the team wherein 2016-17 he recorded five goals with 34 points. Since then he has only managed a total of 38 points over the last two seasons. This is the exact opposite of what Leetch had done with the club.
Defensively, he has struggled in making the quick decision. That indecisiveness has led to turnovers and goals in the back of the Rangers net. This comes hand in hand with his average time on ice which stood at 21:14.
In his final 43 games, he managed five goals with 13 points, but he was a +3 in that period.
During the team’s toughest part of the season, another missed playoff opportunity, Skjei played some of his best defense. Now he needs to piece everything together and help his teammates play better alongside him.
Skjei needs to play his game
Skjei needs to be Brady Skjei—not Brian Leetch. It’s a different time in the NHL now than it was in the early ’90s. A faster game that the defenseman needs to take advantage of. The team has been in the, dare I say, rebuilding mode the last two years, but now the club can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Brady Skjei needs to be the leader of the club this year. He will have a little motivation as it is expected that the recently acquired Jacob Trouba will pair up with him when training camp begins in September.
The two have been friends since high school, playing together on the National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Now the two will be partners on the ice, representing the red, white, and blue of the Rangers. This just might be what the team and Skjei need to get him to the next level. Two friends with a common goal of bringing their team back to the playoffs and in the near future a potential Stanley Cup run.
Forget Leetch, Skjei needs to put aside the past miscues and losses to focus on playing hockey the way the team expects.
This is Brady Skjei’s team now. It’s time to lead the players on and off the ice and show the world who Brady Skjei really is.