Running out of time to find an NHL contract before the puck drops on the 2017-18 season, another veteran has taken the quiet off-season as a sign to move on. TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that free agent forward Jack Skille is expected to sign with Dinamo Minsk of the KHL in the coming days. The 30-year-old’s decision to continue his career overseas comes a decade after making his NHL debut in 2007.
Skille was selected #7 overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2005 and made the jump to the NHL two years later after a short stint with the University of Wisconsin. Although Skille has never lived up to his draft slot, the two-way winger has nevertheless found an NHL contract in each of the last ten seasons. After three seasons in Chicago, spent mostly with the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs, Skille was traded to the Florida Panthers in 2011 and there developed into a bona fide NHLer. Skille has only played in 22 AHL games since his trade to Florida, instead spending parts of three seasons with the Panthers, two seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and most recently a year apiece with the Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks. Through 368 NHL games, Skille registered 84 points, including a career-high eight goals with the Avs just two years ago, but made his name not by his offense, but by his grit and toughness, his ability to win battles along the boards, and his quickness and tendency to always be in position to make a defensive play. Skille’s impressive ability to find an NHL gig as a reliable depth player is over for now, but may not be over for good, depending on his play in Europe.
With Minsk, Skille steps into a position where he will be relied on more for offense than any other time in his pro career and could also fill a leadership role. He also won’t be alone in Belarus though; he joins a squad with several NHL veterans such as Rob Klinkhammer, Quinton Howden, Justin Fontaine, Marc-Andre Gragnani, and new starting goalie Jhonas Enroth. The team is set to make some moves this season and Skille adds yet another talented contributor to the mix. If Minsk makes a leap up the standings in 2017-18 with Skille leading the charge in all three zones, there is little doubt that he will again draw interest from NHL teams next summer and beyond as a dependable and versatile depth option.