Rangers rookie defenseman Brady Skjei has stepped on to the grand stage of the Stanley Cup playoffs with only seven games of NHL experience this season and has performed admirably so far in the opening round against the Pittsburgh Penguins. His position coach this year with the Wolf Pack where he appeared in 68 games was Jeff Beukeboom; and in this latest edition of Beuk’s Blog the four-time Cup winner and former Blueshirts defenseman shares his thoughts about Brady and how well the young d-man has acclimated to playing in the NHL’s post-season.
Probably one of Brady’s best traits is that he’s unflappable, nothing seems to get him rattled. Even when he makes mistakes and comes back to the bench, he might make a gesture or react some way, but it’s always very calm. There were games where he made some mistakes this year, but he’d always learn quickly from them, wouldn’t get down about them, and then he’d be great the next game. His temperament and disposition is such a positive, and I think that has helped his adjustment to playing big games with the Rangers.
I remember reading stories on him last summer, trying to learn about him before becoming his coach, and I found out that he was a quarterback on his high school football team, and how accomplished he was and what a respected leader he was—and I think all of that points to his character and to the type person he is. He’s been a multi-sport star, played in big games like the National Championship game in college, and you can see that he has confidence, but he’s not arrogant by any means. On the contrary, he’s very humble and very likeable within the group of his peers, too. I think this has set him up for success on the biggest stages.
On the ice the thing that obviously stands out is his skating ability. Brady reminds me in that area of Paul Coffey who was my first defense partner—not that he’s at that level yet, but you just see him skating and you’re in awe sometimes. He just takes a few strides and gets there, or if he gets caught out of position he doesn’t panic because he knows he can get back. You can see it even in the NHL the games he’s played there, his skating ability stands out and is exceptional.
The one thing Brady really started to improve upon in the second half of the season was that he became pretty physical, finishing his checks with force. He wasn’t knocking guys on their butt, he was just consistently physical, which really enhanced his game defensively.
He also played on the power play and played well, especially when Raphael Diaz was healthy those guys did well together because Brady is good at moving the puck and getting speed going and Raffy was good at shooting and finding his spot.
Brady’s developed, no doubt about it, in every aspect of his game. There’s still room for improvement there, and I don’t even know yet how high the ceiling is on him. He had a really good year numbers-wise (28 points in 68 games) and you just feel it’s the tip of the iceberg with him.
Right now I’m excited for him and happy to see that he is taking advantage of this great opportunity.