New York Rangers: Ranking Brady Skjei within his draft class

OTTAWA, ON - MAY 6: Brady Skjei
OTTAWA, ON - MAY 6: Brady Skjei /

Defenseman Brady Skjei  excelled in his rookie season last year. The young blue liner established himself with strong play in his own zone while displaying unexpected offensive prowess. How does he stack up against the other defenders from the 2012 draft?

The Rangers hit a home run by taking Skjei with the 28th pick in the 2012 draft. They join a surprisingly crowded field of teams taking victory laps after drafting stud defensemen. Stars such as Hampus Lindholm, Jacob Trouba, and Colton Parayko all hail from the same class.

An analytics writer posting under the pen name “DTM About Heart” slotted Skjei eighth in the group.

That sounds a little low, even if Skjei only has one season of experience. Let’s investigate.

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Established stars

Three defenders from the 2012 draft stand out with multiple seasons of star-level play. Jacob Trouba, Hampus Lindholm, and Colton Parayko form the top tier.

Ranger fans know Trouba’s name after the young right-hander held out early last season and demanded a trade. Speculation swirled around a possible deal to New York until Trouba gave in and re-signed with Winnipeg in November.

Trouba entered the league at age 19 and immediately averaged over 20 minutes per game. He plays a strong, two-way game and grades well above average in every category of statistician Domenic Galamini’s HERO charts.

HERO stands for Horizontal Evaluative Rankings Optic, but these charts just rank skaters’ even strength play in a few categories for easy comparison: Shot suppression (preventing shot attempts against), shot generation (creating shot attempts for), goals, first assists, and ice time.

Hampus Lindholm plays the most dominant defensive game of any 2012 blue liner. The young Swede has a knack for locking down the neutral zone. He also has four years of experience like Trouba.

Colton Parayko has a lot of similarities with Skjei. Both rack up primary assists at an elite rate. Parayko has an extra season on Skjei and does a better job generating shots.

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Second Tier

Behind the biggest names, six defenders clump together. Brady Skjei fits in this group with Shane Gostisbehere, Colin Miller, Morgan Rielly, Damon Severson, and Jaccob Slavin. Each has his own strong suit.

Rielly has the longest track record of the group. He also has the most glaring flaw. His strong offense masks a below average defensive game.

Like Rielly, Gostisbehere rates only 40th percentile in suppressing shots. Unlike Rielly, Gostisbehere already has a 46 point season on his resume, despite far fewer games played.

Severson and Miller check in on the other end of the spectrum. Both shine with strong defensive play and generate lots of shots. Neither one posts high point totals though.

Slavin presents the most interesting comp for Skjei. He has one more season of experience, but both broke out offensively this year. Slavin’s 34 points last season come in just below Skjei’s 39.

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Skjei versus Slavin

This the HERO chart for Skjei and Slavin.

Both players suppress shots well, with a slight edge to Skjei. Their games diverge from there though.

Skjei pots points at a much higher rate, but Slavin sees a lot more ice time. Look for this to change in 17-18 as Skjei’s role increases. Slavin has a clear advantage in generating shots.

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Order up

Tier groups paint more accurate pictures, but rankings are more fun. So here’s my arbitrary list.

  1. Trouba
  2. Lindholm
  3. Parayko
  4. Skjei
  5. Slavin
  6. Gostisbehere
  7. Miller
  8. Severson
  9. Rielly

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It might be premature to rank Skjei at four, but he had a truly impressive rookie year. Whether he rises or falls on this list depends on where his game goes from here. Regardless, Ranger fans should feel good betting on Brady Skjei.