Versatile veteran forward is unsung hero for Rangers

Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Vesey is not a headline-grabber for the New York Rangers. The versatile forward isn’t in the thick of the NHL scoring race like teammate Artemi Panarin nor writing his name in the Rangers record books like Chris Kreider nor stirring things up, literally and figuratively, like rookie Matt Rempe.

But Vesey is an essential piece to New York’s success this season, helping them sit first in the Metropolitan Division since October and currently atop the NHL standings with four games remaining in the regular season.

Vesey’s versatility and value to the Rangers came into play in their most recent win, 5-2 against the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday night. The 30-year-old forward moved up to play alongside Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider on the top line when the Rangers scratched Jack Roslovic.

Not only did Vesey pick up an assist on Zibanejad’s second goal of the game — only the third 5V5 goal for Zibanejad since December — and pull regular duty on the penalty kill, but he double shifted on the checking fourth line several shifts.

“I thought Jimmy played a heckuva’ game last night,” Laviolette said after practice Monday. “Again, the versatility of having him to jump up the lineup and take minutes, and yet if I saw a D-zone start coming and a line coming over the boards from the opposition, to be able to make a quick switch and throw him out there, that’s really valuable.”

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Jimmy Vesey ‘such a good player’ for Rangers

NHL: New York Rangers at Colorado Avalanche
Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Vesey has been primarily a bottom-six fixture this season, largely playing on the third line until Alex Wennberg arrived ahead of the March 8 trade deadline and since on a checking fourth line with Barclay Goodrow and either Jonny Brodzinski, Will Cuylle or Matt Rempe.

He’s also seen time on the Zibanejad line, notably after Blake Wheeler went down with a season-ending lower-body injury in February.

No matter his spot in the lineup, Vesey has delivered gritty play and tenacity on the forecheck, not to mention 13 goals and 13 assists. The Harvard grad plays with plenty of smarts on the ice, is responsible defensively and forms an excellent PK pairing with Goodrow.

All of that was displayed in spades against the Canadiens.

When asked postgame if Vesey brought energy and “puck-hunting mentality,” Laviolette was quick to agree.

“He did. And I think that’s in his DNA,” the coach explained. “That’s what I think makes him such a good player for us. He can play either wing. He can play on the top line or be out on the checking line. He did both roles really well (Sunday).”

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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