Pretty much nothing is going right for the New York Rangers at the NHL level, so let's dig into the lower ranks to see if the future can provide us with any sort of optimism. What's that? It can? Hooray!
The team's 6th round pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Mackenzie Skapski, has had a somewhat inconsistent season compounded further by injury issues and an inexperienced defense in front of him. Sam Reinhart, the team's captain and projected first overall pick of the 2014 draft, was unavailable for last night's game, which is basically the equivalent of taking Tavares away from the Islanders. The Kootenay Ice needed Skapski to step up that much more, and did he ever deliever. He made 51 saves on 52 shots, earned the First Star, and put on a goaltending clinic to more or less steal a win away from the Prince George Cougars.
Here's a video I put together highlighting some of his big moments. It's amusing listening to the commentators for Prince George, the opposing team, who can't help but admire what they're witnessing with every save. Make sure to put the video in HD (lower right corner).
I'll save Kevin time and make the joke for him: Skapski better get used to having to do a lot of that with the Rangers. Keep reading for an update on 2012 first round pick Brady Skjei.
With no returning defensemen for Team USA at this year's World Junior Championships, New York Rangers prospect Brady Skjei could be an important piece to the puzzle. At 19 and a sophomore in college, Skjei is one of the more matured and experienced players on the roster. Chris Peters of The United State Of Hockey put together a good scouting report of Skjei and what he'll bring to the table for Team USA. Peters calls Skjei the "best defender" among left-handed inivitees and insinuates that Skjei is likely to play on the first-pairing.
Meanwhile, Mike Eidelbes of INCH Writers had this to say about Skjei a few days ago:
2 quick thoughts: 1) Really like the MINN grittiness. Thought that was missing last yr 2) Skjei might not be best NCAA dman, but he’s close.
— Mike Eidelbes (@INCH) December 7, 2013
The Rangers have virtually nothing behind Dylan McIlrath and Connor Allen in the way of defensemen prospects in Hartford, and either one (or both) could conceivably be in the NHL next season. One has to wonder, if Skjei continues to progress this season, if the Rangers might try to convince him to sign at the end of the season and continue his development at the AHL level. No sense in rushing him, and a junior season at Minnesota would hardly hurt him, but if the scouting staff thinks he'd be ready to make the jump then who knows.
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