After a dominant collegiate career at Harvard where he won the 2016 Hobey Baker award, New York Rangers’ 23-year-old rookie Jimmy Vesey has taken the league by storm. His 5 goals in his first 9 NHL games, good for second among rookies behind only Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, the top 2 picks in this year’s draft. Vesey is currently tied for the team lead in goals with Michael Grabner, after scoring his second in three games in a 6-1 victory Sunday over Tampa Bay.
Originally drafted by Nashville 66th overall in 2012, Vesey informed the team after his senior season that he did not intend on signing with them. He was later traded to Buffalo for the 76th overall pick in this year’s draft, as the Sabres were hoping to be able to pair him with 2015 Hobey Baker winner Jack Eichel. Again, Vesey chose the free agent market over signing. Ultimately, on August 20, Vesey and the New York Rangers came to terms on a deal. He made his presence known immediately, winning the Lars-Erik Sjöberg Award as the team’s best rookie in training camp. On October 17, Vesey scored his first career goal for the Blueshirts in a 7-4 victory over San Jose.
Vesey has been skating on the Rangers’ first line, alongside center Derek Stepan and right winger Rick Nash. He is also seeing time on the 2nd powerplay unit, with Stepan and right winger, and childhood friend, Kevin Hayes. Being given consistent ice time from coach Alain Vigneault and skating with veterans like Stepan and Nash has allowed Vesey to make a smooth transition from college to the pros. A hardworking and gritty player, with the body size (6’3″, 207 lbs.) to match, Vesey has quickly proven his own while gaining the praises of his veteran teammates.
Many people were skeptical if Vesey’s dominant college game would translate well to the NHL level. Finishing at Harvard with 80 goals and 64 assists in 128 games (24G, 22A as a senior) and skipping the AHL, Vesey has quickly proved them wrong. It’s easy to say now, but I have been high on this kid since I heard that he wasn’t going to sign with the Preds or Sabres and was eagerly hoping the Rangers would somehow pull of signing him, like they did in 2014 with fellow Bostonian Kevin Hayes. He adds a physical component to the Rangers’ roster and, at the age of 23, will hopefully continue to produce in the Garden for years to come.
It is, obviously, still very early in the year, as the Rangers have only play 9 games to this point, but with 12 points (6-3-0) they sit a point behind Pittsburgh at the top of the Metropolitan division. Look for Vesey, currently on pace for 45+ goals in his rookie campaign, to continue to play well and develop his game at the professional level. I wouldn’t be surprised to see his name in the conversation for the Calder Trophy by the end of the season.