International Ice Hockey Federation

American upgrade

American upgrade

USA looking for strong group finish

Published 14.05.2017 15:15 GMT+2 | Author John Sanful
American upgrade
Brady Skjei will compete at the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship for the second consecutive year. Photo: Minas Panagiotakis / HHOF-IIHF Images
The additions of Brady Skjei and Kevin Hayes bring important skill sets to an already talented USA lineup.

USA Hockey announced that Kevin Hayes and Brady Skjei will join the team in Germany in time for the end of the Preliminary Round as the Americans seek to qualify for the playoff round of the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. These reinforcements will allow head coach Jeff Blashill some additional options as he readies the team for the close of the first round.

Both players join this tournament after the New York Rangers was eliminated from the NHL playoffs in six games by the Ottawa Senators.

Skjei is making his second consecutive senior men’s tournament. Last year in Russia, Skjei saw action in ten games as Team USA finished fourth in Russia.

Skjei was probably New York's best defenceman in the playoffs. He was smart with the puck and showed much poise in the minutes he played. Defensively, he was strong. Skjei scored four goals while the remainder of the Rangers blueline group scored four combined. Best of all, Skjei is a smooth skater whose abilities appear made for the larger international ice surfaces.

2016-17 was his rookie season and Skjei put up five goals and 34 assists in 80 games. He’s proven himself worthy of being a top four defenceman in the NHL and can further enhance the American power play here, which is fifth in the tournament. Based on his season and postseason, don’t be surprised to see Skjei get more minutes next year and play an important role on the Rangers blueline.

Kevin Hayes teamed with his brother Jimmy on the 2014 Team USA side that finished sixth in Belarus. In eight games he scored a goal and assist.

The Dorchester, Massachusetts native finished the regular season with a career high 49 points and 32 assists. This was a marked improvement over his sophomore season that ended with him being a healthy scratch for the playoffs against Pittsburgh last year.

Hayes refocused himself and came into the 2016-17 season in great shape and worked to improve defence and faceoff abilities. Along the way, he earned additional responsibilities, including playing in shorthanded situations. During the recent NHL postseason, Hayes struggled, scoring no goals and three assists in 12 games but 25-year-old Hayes is at the core of the Rangers youth leaders in the years to come.

Team USA has played well, including winning their last four games after dropping the tournament opening contest to home side Germany. As the Preliminary Round comes to an end, the Americans must now solidify their place in standings and prospects for the next round.

They take on Slovakia this afternoon and the Slovaks are never to be underestimated. Then the biggest test they will have so far is in taking on the Russians. Since 2013, Team USA has lost four of six encounters against Russia in 2013 and 2015. But those two years they beat Russia, the Americans won bronze in the tournament.

There are talented, skilled players on the roster doing well, including Johnny Gaudreau, Anders Lee, and Brock Nelson. Hayes and Skjei will add their considerable talents at just the right time.


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