Gophers Hockey: Brady Skjei returning for junior season

University of Minnesota junior defenseman Brady Skjei - Matt Christians

Skjei, a 2012 first round pick of the New York Rangers, joins fellow defenseman Mike Reilly in publicly announcing a return. His decision leaves senior Kyle Rau as the only unknown.

Minnesota's revolving door this off-season continues to bring players back to Dinkytown .

Following junior defenseman Mike Reilly's decision in May to return to the Gophers instead of sign a pro contract with Columbus Blue Jackets, the maroon and gold bring back another player from its top-3 nationally blue line last year. 2012 New York Rangers first round pick Brady Skjei is the latest to publicly announce he will suit up for Minnesota in 2014-15.

"I can't wait to come back and build off of what we accomplished last year," Skjei said about his decision in a press release. "It's a new season and a new team, but I'm excited about our potential."

The 20 year-old defenseman currently is in New York (along with fellow Gopher Vinni Lettieri) as part of the Rangers' prospect development camp.

Skjei, a Lakeville, MN native who was on the team's top pairing, had 14 points (6G-8A) in 40 games last season as Minnesota won its third consecutive regular season conference championship. That includes 7 points in the final 9 games for a normally defensive blue liner.

Skjei also was a member of the 2014 United States WJC team that finished fifth in Malmo, Sweden.

With Skjei officially returning, Minnesota has yet to have a player with eligibility remaining sign a professional contract. Senior Kyle Rau (Florida Panthers) has yet to announce his decision, however. Last year's co-captain led the Gophers with 39 points in 41 games and to the national championship game in Philadelphia where the team lost 7-4 to Union.

Minnesota opens its 2014-15 campaign October 10 against Minnesota-Duluth in South Bend, Indiana as part of the Ice Breaker Tournament. Notre Dame and RPI are also participating.

--

Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter --

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