The New York Rangers swooped in and won the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes unexpectedly prior to the 2016-17 campaign. Vesey was heavily hyped as a result, which caused his roller coaster season be put under a microscope.
The signing of Jimmy Vesey added much-needed youth to a New York Rangers team that has been starved for it for the past few seasons. Vesey won the Lars-Erik Sjöberg Award, given to the best rookie in Rangers training camp. With this, he received a roster spot playing in 80 games during the regular season and 12 in the postseason.
The left wing got off to a scorching start in his NHL career with seven goals in his first fifteen games. However, regression hit hard and only managed ten more goals in his final 77 games, including the playoffs. Vesey finished the season with sixteen goals and eleven assists. Still respectable numbers for a first-year pro playing under a coaching staff that has always preferred its veterans.
Still, there is more to the game than what’s on the stat sheet. Vesey proved he is more than capable of maintaining a long NHL career. Vesey showed he has the hockey IQ to put himself in good positioning in the offensive zone. He’s proven he has the skill to succeed as well.
While there are many positive notes on his season, there is still some criticism to be had. Vesey had trouble consistently being a factor in games for good portion of the winter. Vesey found himself bouncing anywhere from the second line to the fourth line.
For first year pros coming off of collegiate careers, a concern is always whether they can continue production after the midway point of the season. The concern stemming from NCAA playing significantly less games than junior Canadian hockey. However, fatigue did not appear to play a part in Vesey’s rough patch.
As the season grew longer, Vesey’s play got better. A game that stands out particularly is March 18th at Minnesota, where he potted a goal and began a stretch of games where his overall play improved in a part of the schedule where the Rangers limped across the finish line.
Playoffs arrived and Vesey was a part of the Rangers forward plans to begin. Along with the rest of the top nine forwards, Vesey was completely snakebitten in the postseason. Vesey managed just one goal and four assists in 12 games. After getting off to a slow start in the series versus Montreal, Jimmy did become one of the better forecheckers that made life hard for the Canadiens bottom six.
There is still much to be excited about when it comes to the future. Even though the production wasn’t at All Star level, it’s important to remember that despite the media and fans hyping the former Hobey Baker winner prior to his signing, that Jimmy Vesey is not a Connor McDavid comparable. That being said, with 16 goals in his first year, there’s reason to believe he can be a consistent 20 goal scorer in the NHL.
For his overall season, there is certainly a need for some improvement in his game to take it to the next level. Defense and consistent scoring being the major two keys. His forechecking game improved mightily as the season wore on, leading to believe he can become an invaluable top nine forward for this team down the road.