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Gophers Hockey: Brady Skjei returning for junior season

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.

University of Minnesota junior defenseman Brady Skjei
University of Minnesota junior defenseman Brady Skjei
Matt Christians

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 --