Brady Skjei had to chuckle the other day when I told him at the start of our phone interview that I was calling him from the 10th hole at a Rangers golf outing. Skjei probably laughed, not so much at my circumstances, but rather in an understanding way because he certainly has been multitasking quite a bit these past few months, as well.
Selected by the Rangers with the 28th overall selection in the first round of the NHL Draft on June 23rd, Skjei has proceeded to take part in the Rangers Prospect Development Camp a few days after being drafted, before beginning summer classes at the University of Minnesota. Then just as his courses were winding down this summer, Skjei headed to Lake Placid for a week to take part in the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp which is a major step towards competing for a spot on Team USA's 2013 World Junior Championships team roster.
"It's been kind of a crazy time, I just have to pinch myself sometimes to realize this is all real, this is my life," said Skjei of the whirlwind weeks since being drafted by the Blueshirts.
Fortunately the smooth-skating 18 year-old defenseman now has three weeks off until he begins fall classes at Minnesota. And his most recent success, a solid performance at Team USA's evaluation camp, is still fresh in his mind.
"I think it went really well," offered Skjei. "The coaches knew my game going in because of my previous time in the (United States) program, so that provided me a certain comfort level. I just tried to be a solid two-way player for the team, probably more of a shut-down guy. I wanted to showcase my skating, which is probably the best part of my game and is a big part of international play, along with my shut-down abilities. I am happy with how it all went."
At the evaluation camp Skjei was able to spend quite a bit of time with two other key Rangers prospects--forwards JT Miller and Steven Fogarty---in perhaps a sign of things to come down the road at Madison Square Garden.
"I knew JT pretty well already from the (U.S.) program, so it was good to see him again," explained Skjei. "But I didn't know Steven Fogarty at all which is weird because he's also a Minnesota guy! But I met him this past week and he's a really good guy, and we hung out a lot during the week. They are both really good guys and really talented players."
When asked to provide scouting reports on Miller and Fogarty, Skjei offered up the following:
"Fogarty had a really good camp as a really good two-way center. He played well in his defensive zone, but also made plays in the offensive zone. And JT, obviously, is a really top talent. He can score. He works hard. And he also has that little edge to his game. They're both really good players."
Skjei also was impressed with Miller's leadership skills. The Rangers 2011 top pick is one of three returning players from the 2012 World Junior Championships for Team USA and he was quite comfortable, according to Skjei, in taking younger players under his wing "and showing us the ropes."
While Skjei says he will absolutely follow the advice of Team USA head coach Phil Housley and focus on having a strong start to his Freshman year at Minnesota, he is most certainly hoping already to be a part of the U.S. World Junior squad in Russia come late December.
"For sure that is a goal of mine," stated Skjei. "I obviously want to have a good start to my college career and hopefully use that as a springboard to making that world junior team."
For now, though, Brady Skjei can enjoy some brief time off---his final days at home until the next journey begins with college and beyond in his immediate future.
Jim Cerny-August 17, 2012
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