Skjei’s ability to produce offensively may warrant increased time on what has been a struggling Rangers powerplay. He currently receives an average of 1:01 PP TOI per game, but that time should find itself increasing given his 15 points at even strength over the last 31 games. His ability to produce should only increase with more space. The team would also welcome his ability and willingness to shoot on the man advantage. He is second behind McDonagh with 55 shots (of which 22 have been slapshots) since the start of the New Year. McDonagh has been the defacto man on the point but that should be up for contention given Skjei’s demonstrated offensive abilities.
Given his play this season, it isn’t out of left field to say that Skjei might soon reach Ryan McDonagh’s level of play or even surpass it. He has a long way to go, but it isn’t as far off as one may have expected even several months ago.
Situationally their trajectories don’t quite compare given the circumstances McDonagh found himself in when he first joined the team. After being brought up in the spring of 2011 to replace a traded Michal Rozsival, McDonagh played 40 games in the regular season averaging 18:44 TOI/G and then another five in the playoffs averaging 22:49 TOI/G. This would all occur in McDonagh’s first professional season out of college. Skjei, on the other hand, spent most of his first professional season with the Hartford Wolfpack. He is currently in his second professional season averaging 17:01 TOI/G versus the 24:44 McDonagh received in his second professional season as the Rangers top defenseman. There’s no debating the disparate usage between McDonagh and Skjei at the same age and McDonagh was spectacular in his debut. That’s no knock on Skjei, but McDonagh was used in a larger role and performed incredibly well. In just his first full season he had a 44.35 5on5 OZ% meaning that he faced far more defensive assignments. Skjei, on the other hand, has faced a more protected 56.11 5on5 OZ%.
There’s a disparity in the quality of competition and the assignments faced, but nonetheless, Brady Skjei has performed very well in the role he has been given. Alain Vigneault has made the right move not to rush him along despite the ailing Rangers blueline.