The New York Rangers rookie defenseman has been improving with each passing game. It is only a matter of time till he is universally recognized as one of the team’s top two defensemen.
For the past few seasons, it has been a consensus amongst New York Rangers fans that Brady Skjei would develop into being an NHL-caliber defenseman. Halfway into his rookie season, it appears that Skjei may be ahead of schedule in his development.
Skjei is one of the smoothest skaters the Rangers have had in a while. From the time he was drafted throughout his time in college, Skjei was always compared to Ryan McDonagh. If you have ever watched this kid skate, the similarities would shock you.
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Skjei has played up and down the defensive depth charts all season long. On a team so bare of defensive talent, it’s been hard for head coach Alain Vigneault to find Skjei his ideal defensive partner.
The Rangers did appear to find a pairing that really seemed to click–Skjei and Adam Clendening–Vigneault decided to take Clendening out of the lineup in favor of recently injured Marc Staal.
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Skjei has been the most reliable defender on the team with the exception of McDonagh. Skjei always finds himself in the right position. Even when he may be the slightest bit out of position, Skjei has the wheels to get himself back in a good enough position to make a play. There are not a lot of guys who can do that as well as Skjei.
Offense is Coming
Regardless of who his defensive partner’s been, Skjei has been one of the Rangers best defenders from a puck-possession standpoint. Skjei leads the team’s defenseman group with a 49% corsi-for percentage. In fact, Skjei has a 2.6 CF%rel, which is a team’s puck possession numbers with a player on the ice compared to the team’s numbers when said player is off the ice.
Skjei’s offensive numbers are also the best marks he has put up in his career from college till now. Last season, Skjei put up 4 goals and 24 assists in 68 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack. This season, Skjei has 2 goals and 19 assists in 50 games with a plus-6 rating with the big club.
Skjei was a never a guy who was supposed to be a huge offensive threat. He was always thought of as a guy who could tally a goal or a point every so often, but everyone knew he’d make his money on the defensive end.
The Rangers need to be happy about the development of their 22-year-old Minnesota native. In Skjei, they have a future top pairing defenseman who could contribute in all three zones. Those types of players are rare commodities, as the Rangers will soon find out as they test the market, trying to improve their defense.