New York Hockey: Brady Skjei

Skjei drawing comparisons to McDonagh

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
2:47
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- As he boards the flight to Finland with the rest of the U.S. National Junior Team candidates Tuesday evening, 18-year-old defenseman Brady Skjei faces a similar scenario to what he has experienced in his freshman year at University of Minnesota:

Trying to crack a tough lineup that boasts a solid back end.

The Rangers’ first-round pick this June (28th overall) will be battling for one of the coveted spots on the blue line as Team USA finalizes its roster heading into the World Junior Hockey Championship tournament.

Playing in camp with the likes of fellow Rangers prospect J.T. Miller and standout defenseman Seth Jones, Skjei has been a player the Rangers brass has watched closely from the club’s practice facility in Westchester, where Team USA’s camp was held this week.

One thing they noticed about the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Minnesota native? He shows glimpses of another Blueshirts defenseman: Ryan McDonagh.

“I think that’s a fair comparison,” Rangers assistant general manager Jeff Gorton said. “He’s a tremendous skater, he has size and a lot of potential.”

Skjei was flattered to hear the comparison and said he emulates McDonagh, who played on the Rangers top pairing this year.

“I do,” Skjei said when asked if he models his game after McDonagh. “We’re both good-skating defensemen who can move the puck and if I can be half as good as him I’ll be happy. He’s a guy I’d like to play like and hopefully someday I can play like him.”

Like McDonagh (who went to the University of Wisconsin), Skjei is honing his skills at one of the top college hockey programs in the country. Skjei hasn’t yet earned the type of playing time McDonagh shouldered last season, but he hopes his progress is pointing him upwards.

“You’re tying to adjust to it. I think I’m catching on. Our team’s doing good though, so I’ll pick up my game after Christmas and go from there,” he said.

“Right now, my coaches in Minnesota want me to be a shutdown guy. They taught me offense will come at the end of this year, next year. I think I’m on the right track.”

Skjei hopes he can play that sort of role with Team USA when they travel to Ufa, Russia for this year’s tournament. The team is still planning on making more cuts before play the tournament begins.

“I think I can play a shutdown role. I think that’s what they want me to play. They don’t expect me to be a power-play. Just a good skating, puck-moving defenseman,” he said. “On the Olympic ice, with my skating ability, I think I can use that to my advantage.”

That’s been one skill that the likes of Gorton, Mark Messier, assistant coach Mike Sullivan and Assistant General Manager Jim Schoenfeld have noticed.

Skjei has noticed them too, but he insists it hasn’t frazzled his nerves. Instead, he relishes the opportunity to make a good impression.

“No, that just makes me play harder,” he said. “I think I play better with people watching me, so I like [it].”

2012 NHL draft recap

June, 24, 2012
6/24/12
9:43
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Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesStefan Matteau


Here is a recap of what happened in this weekend's NHL draft for our three locals:

DEVILS

Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!

Hard to believe, but that name might have a nice ring to for New Jersey, in a few years.

With the 29th pick in the first round, the Devils selected Stefan Matteau, son of hated nemesis Stephane Matteau -- the same Matteau whose double-overtime wraparound goal in Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference finals sent the Devils packing and the Rangers toward the Cup.

The younger Matteau, 18, is a 6-2 center who had 32 points in 46 games for the U.S. Team's National Development Program. New Jersey also scooped up defenseman Damon Severson out of Kelowna of the WHL with its second-round selection.

Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesBrady Skjei


The biggest news the Devils made, though, was not trading impending unrestricted free agent Zach Parise's rights. The Devils still feel they can sign their captain. They're going to face stiff competition. Complete draft results.

RANGERS

The Rangers could've taken Matteau. Instead, they opted to go with 18-year-old defenseman Brady Skjei at No. 28. He played in 60 games with the U.S. National U-18 Team, and notched four goals and 19 assists.

Kent School forward Cristoval Nieves was their second-rounder, No. 59 overall.

The Rangers are expected to be active this offseason in trying to land another potent offensive player, whether that be via free agency or trade. Names like Rick Nash and Alexander Semin could end up on their radar. Complete draft results.

ISLANDERS

Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesGriffin Reinhart


The Islanders addressed their blueline with the No. 4 pick, taking WHL defenseman Griffin Reinhart. The 18-year-old had 12 goals and 24 assists in 58 games for the Edmonton Oil Kings. He is 6-4, 202 pounds and is said to have an NHL-ready body. His father is former pro Paul Reinhart, who played a combined 648 games for the Flames and Canucks.

The Islanders also addressed their blueline via trade, acquiring Lubomir Visnovsky from the Ducks for a 2013 second-rounder. He had just six goals and 21 assists in 68 games last season, but amassed 18 goals and 50 assists the year before. Only problem is, there's a report that says Visnovsky may want to play in the KHL. Could this prove to be a Christian Erhoff-like situation all over again -- except worse? Complete draft results.

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