Jimmy Vesey to build off success in new Rangers role
The New York Rangers signed a very different version of Jimmy Vesey to a two-year extension this past January from the player who arrived on Broadway fresh out of college in August 2016 –– and it’s for the better.
The left-winger carved out a stable slotting for himself in the Blueshirts’ bottom-six last season, but it didn’t come without reflection and adaptability to keep his NHL career alive and well.
“It was kind of make or break, I went with my gut, and I’m just over the moon with how everything has gone,” Vesey said in January, according to the NHL. “I had a good camp, parlayed that into a contract and off to a good start.”
Jimmy Vesey a college star to NHL grinder
Vesey tore up the NCAA during his four seasons at Harvard University, winning the Hobey Baker Award in his senior campaign where he posted 46 points (24 goals, 22 assists).
The now 30-year-old, selected in the third-round of the 2012 Draft by the Predators, entered the college free agent market in August 2016 after opting not to sign in Nashville nor with the Sabres to whom his rights were traded.
Vesey was a highly-touted forward coming off a career year with the Crimson and looked at by NHL organizations as a top-six fit. When the Rangers gave Vesey his first professional deal –– a two-year, entry level contract –– that’s exactly what he was poised to become.
While Vesey had a strong showing in his first ten games with the Rangers, logging six goals and three assists, the rest of his rookie season lacked consistency and spark as he finished 80 games with 27 points (16 goals, 11 assists).
After three years of trying to find his way on Broadway, Vesey was dealt to Buffalo in July 2019, starting a tour around the NHL that included four teams –– Sabres, Maple Leafs, Canucks and Devils –– in three seasons.
“I think the three years away from here I’ve learned a lot about myself,” Vesey said.
“None of the stops really went as I planned. For whatever reason, I wasn’t comfortable, didn’t play well. I don’t know. One year was a COVID year (2019-20), which was miserable.”
Vesey’s 2020-2021 season in New Jersey got the forward back on track, and he began to buy into and come to peace with the new role he must take on –– one that would make teams need him in the lineup.
Vesey’s successful second NY tour
The Massachusetts native returned to the city he now calls home last fall, entering the Rangers’ 2022 training camp on a professional tryout contract. He earned a one-year deal with the squad in Oct. 2022 which turned into a two-year extension in January.
“It provides some form of validation. I thought I’ve been playing pretty well this year,” Vesey said.
“It’s nice the Rangers want to keep me around. I’m really grateful they brought me in a second time and gave me a second chance again. I just want to keep it going.”
Vesey didn’t come into last season looking to replace anyone in the top-six or have a record-breaking scoring year. Instead, he focussed on how he could help the team win and became a staple fourth line grinder who still showed flairs of his raw offensive talent.
The Vesey, Barclay Goodrow, Tyler Motte trio went out and took care of business –– that line arguably had the most heart during the Rangers’ brief 2023 playoff run.
“I think I’m more useful to a team now even though I might not score as many goals,” Vesey said.
“I’m really happy with where I am. I think I’m a 200-foot player that can bring a lot of value to a team on a cheaper contract, playing penalty kill and chipping in offensively.”
Through 81 games played last season, Vesey put up 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists), and showed that while he might’ve not turned into the type of player originally expected of him, he’s able to put ego aside and commit to group success.
Heading into the 2023-24 season with contract security and his new Rangers’ identity figured out, Vesey can finally take a breath, put the packing boxes away and lean further into his changed purpose.