Skjei Leaves Gophers for Pros

by Ben Gotz

Updated at 3:20 p.m. with statement from Skjei.

The Gophers have their first early departure of the last two years.

Junior defenseman Brady Skjei will forego his senior season after agreeing to an entry-level contract with the New York Rangers on Wednesday. The news was first reported by Let's Play Hockey.

Skjei was the lone first round draft pick on the Gophers roster last season, after being selected 28th overall by the Rangers in the 2012 National Hockey League draft. Skjei will report to the Rangers' AHL affiliate, the Harford Wolf Pack, on an amateur tryout.

"I have had the best three years of my life at the University of Minnesota, and I will always be proud to be a part of the Gopher hockey program. I couldn't have asked for better teammates, coaches and fans," Skjei said in a statement.

Skjei was known for his speed on the ice and defensive ability on the blue line while with the Gophers, earning All-Big Ten honorable mention honors after his sophomore and junior seasons. In 109 career games at Minnesota, the Lakeville native recorded 27 points (eight goals, 19 assists) and helped the Gophers win three straight regular season conference titles and three trips to the NCAA tournament.

""Brady had a terrific career here at the University of Minnesota, helping us earn three regular-season titles, a playoff title and three NCAA tournament berths," head coach Don Lucia said in a statement. "He has beena great program guy – a guy who always put the team first – and we look forward to seeing him continue to develp as a professional player."

Skjei had the option of turning pro last year, but opted to stay at Minnesota along with teammates Hudson Fasching, Kyle Rau, Mike Reilly, and Adam Wilcox for a shot at a national title. The Gophers were not able to live up to lofty expectations this year, and several of Skjei's former teammates may now join him in the professional ranks. 

Skjei is the fourth Minnesota player to sign a professional contract after the 2014-15 season after seniors Seth Ambroz, Travis Boyd and Rau.