Brady Skjei a perfect partner for Ryan McDonagh on the blueline

Bobby Bevilacqua

brady skjei full body 12-15

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Not a lot of good came out of the Rangers’ five game series against the Penguins. With defensive injuries and a slacking team, the Rangers stood no chance against the now Eastern Conference Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

Despite defensive injuries and problems, Brady Skjei emerged as a strong, consistent defenseman despite minimal NHL experience. In a high pressure situation, Skjei played better than just about every Rangers defenseman in the playoffs.

On top of showing that he could play in the NHL at a high level, Skjei showed something else that was more important – he can play the right side.

Alain Vigneault has struggled to find a consistent partner for Ryan McDonagh on the top defensive pairing, and that has limited what the captain is able to do on a nightly basis. Dan Girardi has dragged down McDonagh with his poor skating ability and not being able to effectively transition the puck. Kevin Klein has worked well at times, but his playstyle doesn’t always mesh with Mac.

Ryan McDonagh is an excellent skater, a very solid defenseman, effective in transition, and he likes to join the rush and contribute offensively. When Brady Skjei was coming up through college and the AHL, it’s not a coincidence that he was compared to McDonagh.

Skjei is also an excellent skater, which is his biggest asset and allows him to escape forecheckers and move up the ice with ease. He can pass and distribute the puck, which is extremely important. McDonagh hasn’t had a partner that can take pressure off of him and handle the puck, and Skjei being able to do that will allow McDonagh to play more freely and calmly.

In 68 AHL games this year, Skjei scored four goals along with 24 assists. He had two assists in five playoff games with the Rangers, and also played very well for Team USA in 10 games at the IIHF World Championships. He also talked to Blueshirts United about his offseason plans.

“Now that I’ve played a full season professionally I kind of know what it’s like to play in the NHL and I know what I need to work on, for sure,” Skjei told Jim Cerny. “I’ll have that in the back of my mind this summer, but I’m going to stick to my workouts, try and get stronger, work on my offense – my shot, stickhandling, making plays. I’m going to work real hard this summer to get better so that I can go to training camp and make the team right away.”

Skjei already impressed me with his strength, holding off players much bigger than him and playing well in front of the net. He could use some more work offensively, although that has never been his strong suit or selling point, and if he can continue to make slick passes and distribute the puck well, then Skjei will be perfectly fine in the NHL.

McDonagh has been hampered with defensive defenseman for the past two seasons, and it has certainly dragged down his play. By pairing him with Skjei, he will finally have another player who can skate and distribute the puck just as well, taking pressure off of Mac and allowing him to maybe take some more risks offensively, while having a reliable defensive partner to back him up.

With Skjei by his side, we could potentially see McDonagh return to his 2013-14 form that had people calling him a future Norris Trophy candidate.

Posted on June 2, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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