Jimmy Vesey solidifies New York Rangers checking line

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

On opening night at Madison Square Garden, Jimmy Vesey was introduced to New York Rangers fans while wearing street clothes. It must’ve been a tough moment after a strong 2022-23 campaign, where he earned two contracts.

The 30 year-old turned a PTO (professional tryout) into a one-year deal and then parlayed that into a two-year extension midway through the season. Vesey finished with 11 goals and 25 points in 81 matches and many believed he was a lock for this season’s roster.

Early in camp, Vesey found himself locked in a roster battle for the fourth line with newly signed forward Tyler Pitlick. When the season opened in Buffalo, it was Pitlick in the lineup. Eventually, Vesey earned his spot back and has solidified himself with head coach Peter Laviolette, playing in the last four games straight.

“Jimmy’s played really well,” Laviolette remarked. “He’s done a pretty good job since he’s come in here.”

Related: Who’s Laffing now?

Jimmy Vesey a Rangers mainstay on fourth line

NHL: Nashville Predators at New York Rangers
Oct 19, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Jeremy Lauzon (3) skates with the puck against New York Rangers left wing Jimmy Vesey (26) during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Vesey is simply good at hockey and a player I greatly respect.

It was a very long and windy road for him to become the player he is today. The stories of the 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner tearing up college were numerous, as he opted to stay four years instead of inking an ELC with the Nashville Predators, who drafted him. That allowed him to become a free agent and to choose where he wanted to sign. When he chose the Rangers, fans all thought they were getting a young, high end offensive winger that would fit perfectly with the more experienced roster players at the time.

It seemed very much like a match made in heaven, but ultimately, things did not work out as planned. Across three seasons with the New York Rangers, Vesey scored 90 points, rarely showing flashes of the dazzling player we saw so often at Harvard. That led to a trade to the Buffalo Sabres and eventually stops in Toronto, Vancouver, and New Jersey.

A lot of guys would fold when not living up to their expected early potential. Some guys that have been successful in playing a certain style of hockey their whole lives are never able to adapt at the pro level and the weight of the expectations ultimately stops them from having a good NHL career.

The resilient Vesey didn’t allow this to happen. As he bounced around the league, he redefined and refined his style, as the once electric offensive skill player in college turned himself into a pesky defensive forward that all successful teams need to have in their lineup. Instead of pouting, he put his head down to completely changed his game.

He’s now back to where it all started and making a difference for the Rangers fortunes. According to Evolving Hockey, Vesey was rated in the 93rd percentile among forwards for defensive play last year. That is an EXTREMELY valuable player in today‚Äôs NHL.

Which brings me to my final point. It’s absolutely clear that the Rangers have a better fourth line with Vesey on it. The early numbers show that the CorsiFor% for the fourth line is almost double when he’s on that line versus Pitlick.

Jimmy Vesey is thriving, as is the fourth line. The impact is obvious on the ice and the Rangers’ record which currently stands at 5-2-0.