Jimmy Vesey joined the Rangers as a free agent last summer, and was firmly planted into the Rangers lineup from the get go. In his 80-game rookie season, Vesey put up a very respectable 16-11-27 stat line (0.34 PPG) and also put up a 44.73 CF%, 45.6 xGF%, and a 47.64 SCF% (all at even strength) while shooting 13.8% overall. Vesey’s season emulated a standard rookie season’s tale that had a nice bit of redemption by the end of a short playoff run.
Vesey hit the ice skating early on, playing mostly with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash, as he racked up 6 goals and 8 points in his first ten professional games. All throughout the early part of the season, the former Harvard standout looked every bit the top line player that the fans and media hyped him up to be. Even as his scoring dried up a bit; Vesey was hard on the puck, finding the soft areas of the ice for scoring chances, and generally having a positive impact on the Rangers offense.
However, it became more and more obvious that as the season wore on Vesey was hitting a wall. The product of never playing more than 38 games in college, the North Reading, Ma. native slowed down considerably. In fact, in the final 41 games of the year Vesey only recorded eight points (five goals and three assists). Still he was out there, getting top six minutes against other team’s top competition. Not that it was his fault that his play took a dip, the coaching staff should have realized what was going on and either reduced Vesey’s ice time, give him softer minutes, or given him a few games off to rest and recharge.
Being a rookie in the NHL is really hard, especially when the highest competition you were used to playing against were teenagers in college, and the coaching staff should have been more aware of this.
To his credit though, Vesey rebounded during the playoffs. He was one of the few Rangers that stood out in a rather positive way against the Canadiens and the Senators. While he only had the one goal against Ottawa, Vesey looked like the player we all saw at the beginning of the season. He was taking shots, generating chances and shot attempts, and he also managed to get under Max Pacioretty’s skin somehow.
Regular Season Grade: C+
I tend to grade rookies fairly leniently as it’s their first season in the NHL and it doesn’t make sense to be too harsh on them. Vesey’s first NHL season was pretty okay. I wouldn’t expect him to shoot 13% for the rest of his career, but I do think that with a year of pro hockey under his belt and some better deployment (he had 48% offensive zone starts), Vesey will be a solid top-six winger for the Rangers next year and beyond.
Playoffs Grade: B
Like I mentioned above, Vesey was one of bright spots for the Rangers in the playoffs and after his struggles in the second half of the regular season, it was nice to see the young forward stepped up and tried to make an impact as other forwards faltered. If anything, it helped show some fans that there was more to Jimmy Vesey than what we saw post All-Star Break.
Final Grade: B-
Jimmy Vesey suffered the bumps and stumbles of your average rookie season in the NHL and still put up a 27 point campaign while playing in a consistent top six role. That’s still considered a very good season and his performance in the playoffs was a great rebound from a lackluster second half of the regular season, where he was mishandled by the coaching staff. Vesey may not the be gamebreaker that some thought he could be based on his hype, but the Rangers have a solid top six winger on their hands heading into the 2017-18 season.