When the New York Rangers won the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes, many questioned the hype surrounding him. Fortunately, he’s living up to it.
Although there were a number of quality free agents available this summer, the biggest and most coveted name on the market was a player who never stepped inside of an NHL rink.
Jimmy Vesey closed out his collegiate career with Harvard with 144 total points and a Hobey Baker award to boot. But the 23-year old winger didn’t want the draft to dictate his fate. Instead, Vesey decided against signing with a professional club during his four years in school, making him a free agent after graduation.
While the Nashville Predators — the team that drafted Vesey in 2012 — and the Buffalo Sabres — the team that acquired his rights in 2016 — were surely disappointed, the rest of the league’s franchises were salivating at the chance to get a player of Vesey’s caliber.
#VeseyWatch was trending on Twitter for weeks. The New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, and Toronto Maple Leafs joined some of the NHL’s premiere organizations — the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, and Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins — as clubs that were granted interviews with Vesey. Five additional teams weren’t.
The prized possession narrowed his choices down to two Original Six franchises: the Bruins and the Rangers.
For many, his decision appeared to be a foregone conclusion.
Not only did Vesey spend four years at Harvard, but he was a Massachusetts native. He grew up going to the TD Garden while donning white, black, and gold.
But what seemed to be a marriage made in heaven, wasn’t meant to be.
Shocking the hockey world, Vesey traded in his affinity for Beantown for the bright lights of Broadway and inked a deal with the Blueshirts. What was once considered a team in transition, the addition of Vesey — in addition to other savvy and shrewd moves — put the Rangers back on the hockey map. After year’s of sticking with one core, the GM Jeff Gorton revamped the roster with the hopes that success would continue in Madison Square Garden.
The season isn’t even a month old, so it’s hard to get a true feel of how things will shake out in May. But the Rangers are clicking on all cylinders, playing like a dominant force that’s poised to compete for the Metropolitan division crown.
— Elite Sports NY (@EliteSportsNY) November 1, 2016
And Vesey is one of the team’s key catalysts.
Through 10 games, he leads the Rangers in goals (6), is second in points (9), is second in power play points (3), has two game-winning goals, and has a plus/minus of +5. From Opening Night, he’s been skating on the first line with Derek Stepan at center and both Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash at the opposite wing.
The stats are pretty. But Vesey’s impact goes beyond a sheet of paper.
Despite being in the NHL for a brief time, Vesey both plays and carries himself like a grizzly veteran. Too often are rookies trying to be fancy by attempting to score highlight-reel goals after pulling off an impressive deke. But Vesey, instead, values every facet of hockey, as he’s been a force on the forecheck and has displayed his smarts on defense.
Despite his child-like facial features, Vesey stands at 6’3″ and over 200 lbs. While he doesn’t stand out on the ice, you can tell he has a strong center as he’s always fighting for position in front of the net and using his body to give his teammates an advantage.
Again, 10 games are far too small of a sample to get a true feel of how Vesey will be as an NHL player. But if this sample size says anything, it’s that Vesey looks like one of the best hockey players in New York City.
Even better, he’s looking like one of the brightest young stars in the NHL.
Not bad for a two-year, entry-level contract, right?