Spotlight on an NHL “Norwegian”

Norwegian-American Brady Skjei is ready to take the next step as he begins his second season with the New York Rangers

Mats Zuccarello, Brady Skjei, and Carl Hagelin on the ice.

Photo: Pål Christensen / Aftenposten
Mats Zuccarello, Brady Skjei, and Carl Hagelin celebrate a goal at the DNB Arena in August.

Jo Christian Weldingh
Oslo, Norway

Many Norwegian Americans, including Lance Armstrong, Danica Patrick, and Lindsey Vonn, have excelled in sports and gone on to have amazing careers. One Norwegian American who hopes to take the next step and have his big breakthrough this season is 23-year-old hockey player Brady Skjei from Lakeville, Minnesota, who plays for the New York Rangers. His great grandfather emigrated from Norway, and Skjei is proud of his Norwegian heritage.

Skjei, who was the Rangers’ first pick in the 2012 draft, had a strong rookie season last year, amassing five goals and 34 assists for 39 points, making him second among the rookie defensemen, proving his abilities in the offensive part of the game.

“I need to be better defensively,” Skjei told reporters following the first day of on-ice practice at a Rangers training camp in early September. “I want to be trusted at both ends of the rink. I’ve got to be physically stronger in front of the net and make the right plays when they’re there. Everything I get this year I have to earn. I’m excited for the challenge,” he told NHL.com.

The coach of the New York Rangers, Alain Vigneault, told NHL.com that he thinks Skjei’s summer workouts with team captain Ryan Mcdonagh will help him take the next step. “I think that’s going to materialize on the ice,” Vigneault said, talking about the summer workouts. “Better decision making, quicker decision making with the puck, better decision making, quicker decision making without the puck. He’s doing everything he can right now to become the best player that he can be, and we need that. We need that from our group if we’re going to be a better team.”

Vigneault was not impressed with Skjei two seasons ago, when he described him as mediocre, but last season apparently made him change his mind. He highlights some of Skjei’s best abilities: always making the right play and skating the puck out on his own. “When he’s under pressure and gets stressed, he is able to skate his way out of trouble without losing the puck,” Vigneault said. “He seems to be an overall stronger player this year,” he concludes.

Skjei also thinks he has made a lot of progress during the last couple of years. “I’m more comfortable every time I get to play. I’ve made some points, too, which is nice. I try to use my skating abilities to my advantage. The coaches here seem to like it,” he says.

When asked about his personal goals for this season, Skjei seems to be more interested in talking about his team. “Honestly, I’ll just do my best. I have some goals, but nothing concrete. I just want to help the team win.”

Last season Skjei told a member of the Norwegian press that he planned on visiting Norway in the near future. “We’re planning a trip next summer. We’re going to Scotland to play golf, then to Norway. Oslo, I think. I’m not quite sure where my ancestors grew up.”

As of October 17, the Rangers had lost six of their first seven games—the worst season start in 57 years. Despite his team’s bad start, Skjei has scored a goal and performed as well as anyone can expect.

Brady Skjei is currently one of four “Norwegians” in the NHL. Mats Zuccarello Aasen plays alongside Skjei for the New York Rangers, Dustin Byfuglien plays for Winnipeg Jets, and Andreas Martinsen plays for Colorado Avalanche.

Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, but is currently living in Oslo. He has a BA in Archaeology from The University of Oslo and a BA in Business Administration from BI Norwegian Business School.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 3, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

You may also like...