From now until the conclusion of the 2019 IIHF Men's Ice Hockey World Championship, Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei will be documenting his experience on and off the ice as he competes in the tournament for the first time alongside fellow Blueshirts Chris Kreider and Adam Fox. Follow along with his journey right here, and on Twitter (@NYRangers) and Instagram (@nyrangers).
We're about one week into the tournament, Team USA is feeling good.
The travel from NYC to Germany was pretty smooth. A lot of us slept most of the way, trying to beat the jetlag. We had a whole section of the plane to ourselves and I knew most of the guys, so it was nice to see a bunch of familiar faces again.
Obviously the first day you travel, it's always pretty tough. We've done it a few times where you sleep on the plane, get in at 10 in the morning and then you've got to stay up the whole day, and you practice that day. But once that first day is behind you, you start to adjust and start feeling good again.
So far, we've had a good amount of practice time and we've had some exhibition games. Our final exhibition game against Germany went pretty well. From the start, there's obviously going to be some bumps, just with new guys playing with each other and a team getting to know each other. We had a little bit of a slow start, but once we started playing together and playing as at team, we scored five goals and ended up winning 5-2.
Every player on our roster is so skilled. Our roster's pretty nuts, so a lot of guys have definitely impressed me. Obviously Jack Hughes, the young guy, is pretty incredible, being 17 years old and as good he is. I'd say he's probably one guy who stood out. But I mean, there's tons of guys who played really well. A lot of superstars in the NHL on one team, so tons of skill, which is good.
Obviously Hughes has a lot of hype around him right now and a lot of eyes on him with his draft coming up this June. He definitely does stuff on the ice that's really impressive and definitely catches your eye. Obviously it's pretty amazing that he's 17 years old and playing with a bunch of guys that are established NHLers, so definitely he's got a bright future ahead of him.
Playing for Jeff Blashill has been a great experience so far. A couple of years ago when I came over to Cologne, Germany to play in this tournament, he was the coach of Team USA, so I already have some familiarity with him. He's definitely a really good coach and a good guy - easy to talk to. I really enjoyed him in the last tournament and he's a good guy for this team, and for the job, and for the tournament.
Our captain, Patrick Kane, is another guy who's definitely the right person for the job. He's definitely a guy who leads by example. He's not the loudest guy in the world. He's not quiet, but he's definitely a leader by example. Some of the stuff that he does on the ice is pretty amazing. I was really excited to get the chance to play with him because I never have before. So to be able to play with him, and for him to captain this team, he's the perfect guy for it - definitely a guy who catches your eye on the ice. If you give him the puck, something good is probably going to happen.
Now, we just have to get ready to play the games that count - the preliminary round starts on Friday. After about a month off since our NHL season ended, the exhibition games helped with my legs and getting back to game speed. My body feels good. I think it was nice to get a little break, get a little rest - the last two times I've been over here for this tournament, it was right after the playoffs, so it'll be a little different this time, but right now, I definitely feel good.
When you come over here, you want to play games - you don't really want to practice anymore, so we're excited to play games. It'll be interesting to see how my body feels after we play seven games in the next 12 days, but I think being here for the third time and having done it before, it shouldn't be any problem.
We've only been in Kosice for a couple of days, so definitely still getting a feel for the city, but so far, so good. We haven't had the chance to do too much off the ice yet, but there's a mall across the street that we got to check out, so that was good. It's a smaller city, and I think the whole town is really looking forward to the tournament - there's posters and signs up everywhere. That's nice to see.
As a team, we've mostly been hanging out as a big group, but for me, it's been cool to get to see a lot of Frank Vatrano. I played with him in Ann Arbor for two years at the National Team Development Program before we went to college, so I've been hanging out with him a lot.
For everyone wondering how Kreids is doing - he had some bad luck when we first got overseas. He had the flu for about three days and actually only played the first period of our exhibition game against Germany and then he went back to the hotel. The last couple days, he was kind of in bed all day, but he's feeling good now. We're back to being roommates - they separated us for a couple days just in case, so I didn't get it, but we're back to being roommates again. He moved back in yesterday, so he's feeling good.
Hope you'll be watching the games now that the real tournament is getting underway - most of them should be on NHL Network, and we have some tough matchups coming up the next few days, so we need your support. I'll be checking in sometime early next week, so stay tuned, and thanks for following along!