Rangers’ Brady Skjei much more than a jersey on an SNL skit

This is some of what George McPhee saw when, as general manager of the then-embryonic Vegas franchise, he scouted the 2016 World Championships in Russia.

“That No. 76, I like the way he carries himself on the ice,” McPhee said during a chat between periods of a Rangers game in Florida last season. “He has skill and I like the way he skates, but what I liked the most was his presence. I didn’t know a lot about him, but he played with a chip on his shoulder; a little bit cocky. That stood out.

“He’s not going to be available [in the expansion draft], is he?”

McPhee laughed at his own little joke. No, Brady Skjei, No. 76, would not be made available in the draft and he obviously would not have been even if he hadn’t been declared off limits because of experience requirements.

Everybody not only knows Skjei’s name now, but even how to both spell and pronounce it following last week’s Saturday Night Live skit in which his jersey was featured. Skjei as in Shea and wait a second, what was Mets’ COO Jeff Wilpon doing at Friday night’s match at the Garden against the Red Wings, anyway?

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Well, he was presumably watching the Skjei-Hey Kid play with the same swagger McPhee had seen when No. 76 represented Team USA at the conclusion of his first (and only) season with the AHL Wolf Pack. Presumably watching Skjei lead the rush in overtime of an entertaining match in which chances were abundant, but goals were scarce in a throwback goaltending duel between Henrik Lundqvist and Jimmy Howard.

It was 1-1 when J.T. Miller, Mats Zuccarello and Skjei lined up to start the three-on-three against Tomas Tatar, Dylan Larkin and Danny DeKeyser. Just under a half minute in, a puck bounced loose, Skjei was on it and led a two-on-one down the right accompanied by Zuccarello on his left. The 23-year-old defenseman carried and went into a spin-a-rama in an attempt to shake DeKeyser and feed Zuccarello.

“When I’m out in overtime, I know I need to play defense, but my mindset is to go for it and try to make something happen if the chance is there,” Skjei said. “And on that play, it was there.

“DeKeyser was able to stay with me, so I tried a spin-a-rama there. Good luck on that. It didn’t work, but the puck came back to me, and I was able to kind of chop it in front to Zucc, who made a great shot.”

Zuccarello held the puck for what seemed an eternity before picking a corner to beat Howard, and the Rangers had won 2-1 behind a masterful 40-save performance from Lundqvist to pick up the extra point that may come in very handy down the line against a potential competitor for a wild-card spot.

“For a second I thought Zucc was going to give it back to me,” said Skjei. “That probably wouldn’t have worked out so well.”

There were plenty of mistakes made by both squads in this one, and the Rangers had more than their share in allowing 40 shots through the first 50 minutes. Without mistakes, though, games would not be worth watching. But Lundqvist, at the top of his game, was beaten only by Tatar’s bullet, sharp angle right-wing shot on the power play at 4:05 of the third.

“I was aware that [Howard] has played some really strong games against us here,” accurately noted Lundqvist, who has allowed one even-strength goal on 106 shots (.991) and four overall on 136 shots (.971) over the past four games. “And the way he was playing, after the second period I thought that one goal could be enough. When they got that one, I knew I couldn’t afford to give another one.”

Skjei, who played a team-high 22:16 as he and partner Kevin Shattenkirk have become the de facto first pair in Ryan McDonagh’s absence, also assisted on Chris Kreider’s tying goal at 10:17 of the third period in carrying into the left corner before a centering pass to Pavel Buchnevich triggered the scoring sequence.

It was another example of this second-year player’s skill and self-belief. Another example of what McPhee had seen two years ago in this emerging nation with No. 76 on his back and his name on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

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Source : https://nypost.com/2017/11/25/rangers-brady-skjei-much-more-than-a-jersey-on-an-snl-skit/

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