Height/Weight: 6'2"/203 lbs
Youth Team: Lakeville North High School
Current Team: USA U-18
The 2012 NHL draft may one day be known as the draft of the defenseman, as several blueliners will have an opportunity to have great NHL careers.
One that has flown under the radar a bit throughout the process is American Brady Skjei. The USA U-18 team member has grown a lot over the past year and will continue to do so next year at the University of Minnesota.
Perhaps Skjei has not been mentioned as much since he refrained from playing Canadian junior hockey, but Skjei's combination of skills is as good as that of just about any defenseman in the class.
It's tough to make anything of his statistics, since playing for the national development team isn't really about that, but he had 12 points in 24 games this past season and was a plus-five as well. Skjei is certainly adept offensively, but he is also one of the stronger defensive defensemen to be taken.
Skjei is at his best when he has the puck on his stick and is going north to south toward the opposing goal. Skjei is an elite puck-mover and skates remarkably well for a player his size. Skjei is already 6'2" and 203 lbs at 18 years of age, and he is reportedly still growing as well.
Skjei is also very strong positionally on the defensive end and he is very difficult for forwards to maneuver around because of his mix of size and speed.
With that said, Skjei isn't without faults, or else he likely would have been an even higher pick. As good as his ability to transport the puck is, Skjei needs to work on his auxiliary offensive skills. His shot isn't anything to write home about, and his passing could use some improvement as well.
Skjei is as solid as they come defensively, thanks to his awareness, but he could be so much better if he used his size to his advantage and was more of a physical presence.
Whatever the case, Skjei was deserving of being taken where he was and should certainly be a player to watch at the next level. I believe that he has at least two years of developing to do in college before he is ready to make the leap. If he rounds out his offensive game and learns how to play physically, he'll be well worth the wait.