Is the young Jimmy Vesey experiencing a sophomore slump with the New York Rangers or is he just flat-out overrated?
Adding Jimmy Vesey to the roster last season was one of the best moves Jeff Gorton made, but now the kid is struggling, leaving us with this all-important question: is it a slump or is he overrated?
Vesey experienced an impressive start to the 2016-17 season and finished with respectable numbers. In 80 games, the rookie scored 27 points, 16 goals and 11 assists. His most impressive run had to be during the Rangers playoff run in which he used the body and was a dominant player on the ice at times.
Like any athlete making the transition from college hockey to the NHL, there had to be some adjustments to Vesey’s game. The biggest adjustment that Vesey had to make was the schedule. Moving from playing 33 games in college to 80 games on the pro level isn’t easy, yet he pushed through it and put up a strong rookie campaign.
Enter this season, everyone was talking about how the kid was going to put up big numbers. That hasn’t translated so far for the second year player who has just five points over the Blueshirts’ first 17 games (despite his two-goal night against Boston).
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The one area in Vesey’s game that has drastically improved is his aggressiveness with the body. Vesey already has 23 hits through 17 games. He had 64 all of last season. He has become one of the most physical Ranger on the ice and you have to wonder if that’s taking away from his offensive game.
An interesting thing to note about Vesey’s game is that he’s gotten more shots through and on net than last season. Six percent of the shots he’s taken have gotten on net compared to 5.5 percent last year. The difference though is that his shooting percentage has dropped drastically. Vesey’s shooting percentage sits at 12 percent (after his two-goal performance against Boston) this year compared to last year where he had a 13.8 shooting percentage.
Vesey started the year on the fourth line but has since moved up to a line with J.T. Miller and David Desharnais. He and Desharnais seem to have found some chemistry as the two have connected for some quality chances including one goal.
The Rangers depth of late has started to produce for the Rangers but Vesey hasn’t been apart of that success. This begs the question, is it Vesey the player or does Vesey need to be around top players in order to be successful?
Vesey played a majority of the 2016-17 season with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash. That line stayed intact all throughout the Rangers playoff run and wasn’t changed when the Rangers were struggling against Ottawa. If you look at his college numbers, Vesey put up 80 goals in four years at Harvard. When he put up 32 goals in 2014-15 and 24 in 2015-16, he was doing that on the top line.
It doesn’t look like Vesey will get the chance to get time in the Rangers top-six this season. If that’s the case it would be unfair to expect top production from the 24-year-old this season. The only way to expect that would be if the Rangers made a midseason trade to get rid of a player, or if someone went down with an injury.
Head coach Alain Vigneault is giving Vesey time with the hopes of it translating into results. Vesey is seeing 14:02 of ice time which is up from last year by 24 seconds. The trust is there from Vigneault, but Vesey has yet to give the Rangers what they need from him.
All of the tools are there for Vesey to be successful in the NHL. There are times during games where he could dominate, we saw that in 2016-17 when he scored against Washington early in the season.
Teams have clearly made the adjustment on Vesey and now it’s time that he makes the adjustment. Vesey has seen the adjustments that teammate Pavel Buchnevich has made this year and how it’s impacted his game, it’s on him now.
Over the next few games, the Rangers will be facing some tough goalies in Cam Talbot, Corey Crawford and Sergei Bobrovsky. If Vesey can get something during this stretch, he has the chance to put his slow start behind him. He got off to a great start Wednesday night against the Bruins scoring twice.
This year the Rangers will learn a lot about Vesey. He can get away by using the sophomore slump card this season because so many players have had slumps in the second full season. If this slump continues and translates into the 2018-19 season, you could argue that Vesey is an overrated player.