New York Rangers Brady Skjei isn’t relying to just continue on after his rookie season. Afterall, the 23-year-old came off a solid rookie year in which he put up 39 points, yet still found himself sitting on the bench when the team was down. That especially was evident in the playoffs against Ottawa when the team sat him at the end of Games 2 and 5 to preserve one goal leads (unsuccessfully).
According to New York Post’s Larry Brooks, Skjei is determined to work on his defensive game and, in particular, working on his net-front play. “I’ve got to be physically stronger in front of the net and make the right plays when they’re there.” Brooks writes that Skjei spent the summer working with Ryan McDonagh on his defense and his conditioning, which received praise from head coach Alain Vigneault.
“I mean, Mac’s testing scores were over the roof and you could tell the influence and impact of Brady working out with him,” Vigneault said. “In my time here, Brady’s testing has improved, improved and improved and now he’s right near the Mac level as far as fitness scoring.”
Skjei’s improvements should bode well on a team with one of the best defenses in the league. After adding Brendan Smith at the trade deadline a year ago, the team signed top free agent Kevin Shattenkirk to the defense. However, with Skjei’s skating and offensive skills, he should thrive in New York as his 39 points last year was the second-best for a rookie defender in the league behind Columbus’ Zach Werenski.
- In the same article, Brooks adds that Vigneault is putting a lot of pressure on the Rangers’ Chris Kreider to step up even more this year. Kreider led the team in goals scored last year with 28, but the head coach would like to see more consistency out of him. Vigneault refers to the third period of Game 6 against the Ottawa Senators last year when Kreider scored a goal 53 second into the period to narrow their deficit. The coach referred to Kreider as a “beast” and would like to see that more often. Kreider finished fourth on the team in points as he had 53 total. Now about to enter his prime, Vigneault believes he can take his game up to another level. “Like I said [on Thursday], he’s not a kid anymore. It’s his turn now. He’s got to become a real good voice in the room. We expect more from him and I know we’re going to get it.”
- Dan Rosen of NHL.com writes that Henrik Lundqvist is more enthusiastic about this season after he helped lead Team Sweden to a gold medal at the IIHF World Championships earlier this summer. The positive experience was better than having to sit home all summer thinking about the team’s early playoff exit and his struggles last season. “I think going into this year, ending on that high note [at the Worlds], that’s definitely something I bring with me to start this year, feeling good about what I did,” Lundqvist said. “I use it as energy and motivation and a boost of confidence.”