What to Expect for Jimmy Vesey’s Rookie Season

As Joe pointed out back in his piece on August 23rd, the Rangers getting Jimmy Vesey this summer was a big deal. But despite the unique path he took to playing hockey in New York City he is still a rookie and Rangers fans often have trouble keeping their expectations within check with rookies.

Using Gabriel Desjardins' work we can get a rough estimate of what Vesey's NHL production might look like in his rookie season using NHL equivalency or “NHLe”.

[(Points ÷ Games Played) x 82] x League NHLe Value = NHLe

But before we jump into projecting Vesey’s counting stats there are a few important things to keep in mind:

  • Vesey turned 23 in May. Normally when we talk about promising rookies we aren’t talking about players that are a year younger than Taylor Hall.
  • Vesey was the main weapon of Harvard’s power play. That won’t be the case in New York. There’s no guarantee he will see any significant time away from evens.
  • He plays wing, not center. Even among rookies the guys who take faceoffs tend to score more points than wingers.
  • He won’t see as many shifts as he did in college. Last season Kevin Hayes averaged 13:40 TOI/G. Hayes, who took a similar path to the NHL to Vesey’s, averaged 13:02 TOI/G in his 45 point rookie season.
  • NHLe is a fun, insightful tool for comparing leagues and projecting rookie production but it is far from perfect. For some context, Hayes’ NHLe in his rookie season after his monster senior year at BC was 54.46 points. /

Vesey will be playing a supporting role with the Rangers. So, he won’t step into a featured role like Max Domi, Artemi Panarin, Connor McDavid, or Jack Eichel were last season. Directly comparing him and his rookie campaign to players like Patrik Laine or Auston Matthews is ludicrous. Vesey’s road to his rookie NHL season was radically different than the one taken by the vast majority of elite prospects.

A quick look at Vesey’s trading card stats from USCHO.com illustrate why the hockey world has followed his story so closely. The Hobey Baker winner put up some amazing numbers in his junior and senior seasons with the Crimson.

A deeper look at Vesey’s counting stats in his last two seasons tells us even more. The former Predators’ third round pick clearly knows how to get pucks on net and generate offense. Vesey was second in the nation in points per game as a junior and eighth in the nation as a senior. He stood head and shoulders over his Harvard teammates in production the last two seasons.

In those two seasons Vesey’s shooting percentage dropped from 20.3 percent to 16.2 percent. That likely had quite a bit to do with his goal production dropping as much as it did in his senior year.

It goes without saying that Vesey won’t score on one of every shots he takes as an NHL rookie. Still, hockey fans were right to be excited about which team would win the Vesey sweepstakes this summer. He’s a very talented young player.

For NCAA players that go directly to the NHL a players’ senior year is typically used for projecting their rookie numbers. But Vesey put up his best numbers in his junior year. We need to take that into consideration when we take a stab at what his rookie production could look like.

There are a lot of people expecting Vesey to score somewhere between 40-50 points in his rookie season. Vesey’s NHLe after his junior year was a head-turning 52.78 points. After last season it lowered to 46.73 points. But college players that join the NHL at the age of 23 or 23 and a half traditionally do worse than players that make the jump sooner.

Let’s talk about points for a just a second. Less than 100 skaters in the NHL scored 50 or more points last season. Only three of them were rookies (Eichel, Domi, and Panarin). On the Rangers only Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, and Derek Stepan eclipsed the 50 point mark. Expecting Vesey to score 50 points should be filed into a folder labeled “wildly optimistic”.

Vesey has all the tools to be an effective forward in the NHL. He has great size and speed and he knows how to use them. With Hayes as his center Vesey should be able to make an impact at even strength in a somewhat sheltered role.

Honestly, it’s hard to say what would constitute a successful rookie season for Vesey. But if he stays healthy and out of Alain Vigneault’s doghouse he could easily approach 40 points. That would be a big deal on a team that depends on it’s even strength scoring and has some big question marks on the blue line.

Vesey clearly makes the Rangers a deeper and more dangerous hockey team. Right now, that is all that matters.