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Brady Skjei: What to expect and how to best utilize him

Bobby Bevilacqua

Brady Skjei skating 2-23

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

When the Rangers were deciding whether or not to re-sign Keith Yandle, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton said that the emergence of Brady Skjei factored into whether or not Yandle factored into their future plans.

“You need good players that are coming that don’t make a lot of money,” said Gorton. “Brady [Skjei] looks on the cusp of being an NHL player. I think that will help our decision.”

I could write a whole article about why that logic is flawed and why Skjei shouldn’t have been factored into the decision on re-signing Yandle or not, but I’ll hold back. Instead, just a concise statement on it; While Skjei is an excellent talent and performed well in his brief NHL stint, it’s not fair to expect Skjei to come close to Yandle’s offensive production, since he’s not the same type of player and he’s a rookie, and hampering him with those expectations could put a lot of unnecessary pressure on him.

Skjei is on his ELC, meaning that he will make $925k for the next full seasons. With his skillset and talent, he could factor into a top four role immediately, which is excellent value for what you’re getting.

And with the Rangers mess of a situation on the blue line, Skjei is needed in a big way for the 2016-17 season. Gorton managed to assemble a really good group of forwards for all four lines, so that doesn’t look to be an issue. If he can manage to get the defense in good shape, with the guidance of new assistant coach Jeff Beukeboom, the Rangers might actually be contenders sooner rather than later.

Because of the first round exit to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Rangers have had a much longer offseason of rest than they’re used to. It’s yet to be seen whether or not that extra time off will help veterans like Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, but based on the past two years, it’s very likely that they’re just going through regression, and they won’t bounce back that much.

It’s been said over and over again, but Girardi, 32, had arguably the worst season of his career, and another consecutive year with a downward trend in production and value on the ice. He was injured, he looked lost on the ice and out of position, and struggled with handling the puck. His deficiencies brought down Ryan McDonagh and made him look like an average defenseman at times.

Girardi cannot handle top pairing duties anymore, and regardless of his contract or his status on the team, he has to start getting sheltered minutes. Let him be a shot blocker and a leader on the team, but just let him do it on the third pairing.

Brady Skjei looked awesome in the playoffs, and despite being sheltered at times, he was really strong on the penalty kill and he was good in crucial situations. But the most important thing we saw was the fact that he can play the right side. Skjei was paired with McDonagh while Girardi was injured and looked very comfortable.

McDonagh also needs to drop Girardi as his partner. Last season when paired with Girardi, he posted a 42.32% corsi for in 631 even strength minutes, which is awful. When paired with Kevin Klein, his CF% jumped to 49.22 in 342 minutes and with Dan Boyle, it was a 56.16% in just 95 minutes.

While Skjei didn’t have an impressive corsi himself, his style of play, skating and transition ability will help it improve as he adapts more to the league. Skjei looked to be better at positioning than Girardi was this year, and he can definitely move and pass the puck better than his veteran counterpart.

Moving Dan Girardi to the third pairing helps in three different ways; Girardi faces lesser competition and likely plays better, Brady Skjei gets big-time experience, and Ryan McDonagh has the chance to improve his overall game and not have to constantly cover for his partner.

In the AHL, Brady Skjei played 68 games with the Wolf Pack and scored four goals to go with 24 assists. He didn’t tally a point in seven regular season games with the Rangers, but had two assists in five games against the Penguins.

Skjei will be able to pitch in offensively for the Rangers, but he’s not going to come near Yandle’s 47 points from last season. I’d pencil Skjei in for anywhere from 17-24 points, depending on where he plays in the lineup.

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Posted on August 23, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. The WOWI numbers are a big indicator of weight on teammates. However, when looking at how McDonagh played when paired with Girardi as opposed to Boyle you have to look at the kind of minutes the partner plays. Boyle started most of his even strength shifts in the offensive zone while Girardi & Klein were both around 50%. There’s no doubt Girardi is a ball & chain on McDonagh but not so much as those numbers would suggest.

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  1. Pingback: Reasonable expectations for the Rangers 2016-17 Season |

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