Brady Skjei burst onto the scene during his rookie season in 2016-2017. The 2012 first-round pick tallied 39 points for the New York Rangers, and as a result, expectations were running pretty high heading into the following season, with some starting to compare his play to the recently departed Ryan McDonagh. However, Skjei’s overall production tailed off quite a bit during his sophomore season, but that could probably be attributed to the Rangers being an overall mess all throughout 2017-2018.
Despite the down season, management clearly saw enough promise in his game and projection and rewarded the 24-year old with a six-year, $31.5 million contract on July 28, 2018. The new contract came with mixed reviews because Skjei didn’t necessarily light the world on fire during his contract year. But that’s also not saying Skjei was downright terrible either, because more often than not, the Rangers were a better team when he was on the ice.
His sophomore year left a lot to be desired, and with the new deal, many expected that he would rebound in 2018-2019 under a fresh new bench boss in David Quinn.
Skjei began the year paired with newcomer Adam McQuaid, who the Rangers acquired from Boston prior to the start of training camp. Initially, Quinn mentioned that McQuaid’s “defensive presence” complimented Skjei’s style well and gave him a little more freedom to make a confident play. Tom did an excellent job of putting that narrative to rest back in January, concluding that the coach’s words didn’t match up with the numbers under the hood.
When McQuaid and Skjei were trotted out early during the season by assistant coach Lindy Ruff, the results....were not very pretty.
Of the eight pairings with at least 200 minutes logged together, the duo of McQuaid and Skjei ranked second to last behind just Marc Staal and Neal Pionk in terms of CF% and Rel CF%. As the table above also shows, there’s a pretty sizable gap between the bottom two pairings and the next closet group in the Rel CF% category. Overall, it wasn’t a great start to Skjei’s third full season in New York.
Following the trade deadline, though, Skjei was finally set free after McQuaid was sent to the Columbus Blue Jackets for picks and defenseman Julius Bergman. Despite not having a steady partner through most of the season, Skjei’s play definitely improved after he was unchained from McQuaid’s side. His most consistent partner near the end of the year was Kevin Shattenkirk, and the pair became one of the team’s most reliable all season.
From a basic stats perspective, Skjei matched his point total from the season prior with 25 points. His assists took a slight dip, but he made up for that by doubling his goal output and setting a new career high. Here is Skjei’s final stat line for the season, and how his numbers compared to last year:
- Games Played: 78 (-4)
- Goals: 8 (+4)
- Assists: 17 (-4)
- Points: 25
- +/-: -4 (+23)
- PIM: 44 (+5)
Banter Consensus: C+
Despite a rocky start, Skjei was able to close out the 2018-2019 campaign on a higher note. However, he continued to tread water on the complimentary path, rather than becoming the pair-driving defenseman management and fans want him to become. The Rangers gave him a vote of confidence with last summer’s extension, so now it’s Skjei’s turn to hold up his end of the bargain.
There’s still plenty of time for Skjei to grow into that player, and the expected upheaval of the Rangers’ blue line this upcoming offseason should create a fresh opportunity for him. With the right decisions made by management, and a steady partner, Skjei could carve out a niche with Quinn’s Rangers.