Jason Gonzalez has covered an array of sports at all levels over the last six years. He learned ice hockey, however, long before — during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah (his hometown). He got a close up look of legendary Gophers alum Herb Brooks and other Minnesota hockey greats. Jason is nearing two years with the Star Tribune.
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Brady Skjei will return to the Gophers’ blue line next season. The New York Rangers’ 2012 first-round draft pick informed the club on Thursday that he would return for his junior year of college.
The defenseman joins fellow junior defenseman Mike Reilly in putting off professional hockey a bit longer for a chance to return to the Frozen Four and national championship.
“I can’t wait to come back and build off of what we accomplished last year,” Skjei said in a release. “It’s a new season and a new team, but I’m excited about our potential.”
The Lakeville native is currently participating in the Rangers’ prospect developmental camp in New York City alongside Gophers teammate Vinni Lettieri.
Skjei played a big role on the Gophers’ back end in their run to last year’s national championship game. He also scored 14 points (six goals, eight assists) and was an All-Big Ten honorable mention and Academic All-Big Ten honoree.
He was a member of the 2014 National Junior Team and a product of the U.S. National Developmental Team Program.
With Skjei and Reilly committed to return, the attention turns to senior forward Kyle Rau. He told the Star Tribune in May that he didn’t want to rush into a decision. Last week’s NHL draft, and the ensuring roster moves, should help Rau clear up any uncertainty and make an announcement soon.
Talk among the team was that junior goaltender Adam Wilcox decided to return, though no announcement has been made. The national runner-up Gophers lost only five seniors to graduation.