Our Draft profiles brings us another great name in Brady Skjei (just say it out loud. It’s fun). The big defenseman out of the United States National Team Development Program has been making a name for himself in both the national and international game. Skjei put up 4 goals and 19 assists with the NTDP team last season, a small uptick on his numbers the years before with the U17 team (5 goals, 14 assists).
Most impressively, however, was Skjei’s contribution to Team USA at the U18 World Junior Championship. Skjei has only 1 assist and 4 penalty minutes but he scored an extremely impressive plus-10 rating in just six games, helping the USA to its fourth straight gold medal at the tournament.
Weight: 203 pounds
Born: March 26, 1994
What People In The Know Know
Skjei isn’t the best defenseman in this year’s draft, but he is close. And he’s undoubtedly the best skater among blueliners available.
“It looks like poetry watching this guy skate,” said one scout. “He’s effortless and massive, which makes him attractive. He sometimes makes some shaky decisions, but his skating ability for his size is frightening.”
Although his numbers with the U.S. under-18 team didn’t reflect it, Skjei has decent offensive ability, a trait he’ll likely display more next season at the University of Minnesota.
He already has size, though scouts would like to see him use it more to his advantage when it comes to playing a physical game. He has improved in that department, but it’s clear that will never be a dominant part of his game.
“When somebody gets him at the next level and tells him, ‘just be simple and go with your skating stride,’ he’ll be a real effective NHLer,” said another scout.
Brady Skjei might be the most effortless skater in this draft. He knows how to make a play once he gets in the offensive zone.
Strengths: A great skater for his size, likes to support the play from the back end, above-average puck mover, can lug the puck if needed, good hockey sense, gets point shots on the net, passing skills are okay, can play on the power play. Has improved quite a bit in last few months, hasn’t reached his full potential yet. Weaknesses: Not a hard-nosed kid, won’t play a physical style despite his size and needs to add some muscle. Not an overly creative player and his offensive production may not be great – he needs work on his consistency. NHL upside: May have the size/skating ability to be given top three minutes on an NHL blue line someday.
Skjei’s skating abilities seem to be unmatched by other defensemen in the draft and has scouts and analysts drooling all over his ability on his feet. Obviously an invaluable skill for a defenseman of his size, this could lead to Skjei having a bright future in the NHL.
Teams in the later third of the first round could do worse than to give Skjei some very careful consideration when it comes time to make their pick.