Jimmy Vesey provides upside, balance to the Rangers forward group


Bobby Bevilacqua

For the second time in two years, the Rangers managed to sign the best college free agent on the market, signing Harvard captain Jimmy Vesey to an entry level contract last night and adding the 23 year old to their already impressive group of young forwards.

Looking at the potential roster for next season, Alain Vigneault will employ four lines full of young talent; Derek Stepan (26), Josh Jooris (26), Chris Kreider (25), Oscar Lindberg (24), Jesper Fast (24), Kevin Hayes (24), Jimmy Vesey (23), Mika Zibanejad (23), JT Miller (23), and Pavel Buchnevich (21). For a team that’s sometimes criticized for having “no future” or who’s “window is closed,” the Rangers are looking pretty damn good heading into next season.

Vesey wrapped up his senior season at Harvard, scoring 24 goals with 22 assists for 46 points in just 33 games. He won the Hobey Baker award after finishing as a runner up for the 2014-15 season, when he established career highs in games played (37), goals (32), assists (26), and points (58).

If you tally that all up, it amounts to 104 points in his last 70 collegiate games, averaging .80 goals per game and 1.49 points per game. His 56 goals over the last two seasons are the most in the NCAA in that span.

First off, let’s get this out of the way. Jimmy Vesey is not the second coming of Alex Ovechkin, nor is he Connor McDavid, and he’s not going to score 80 points in his rookie season. Cutting ties with the Predators and opting to become a free agent had people overblowing his immediate impact because there’s nothing else to talk about in late July and August of the hockey season.

However, he still has a high upside and could factor into the top six later on in his career. For this season, you can reasonably expect somewhere between 10 to 20 goals and around 35 points for his rookie season, which would be a really nice addition to the middle six of the lineup.

Assuming that the top six stays the same, with Zibanejad taking Brassard’s spot, then you can probably assume that Vesey will play on the third line. And the third line is currently shaping up to be Vesey with Kevin Hayes and fellow rookie Pavel Buchnevich. That line screams upside and potential, and it could give the Rangers their most productive third line since the Pouliot-Brassard-Zuccarello days.

But the Vesey signing does more than just improve the third line; it helps solidify the entire lineup and help Vigneault, if he structures his lines properly, to create a balanced four lines; a solid, two-way top six, a third line that can be sheltered offensively and produce, and a defensive fourth line. It’s a structure employed by teams like the Blackhawks, and one that has worked before.

Adam Herman from Blueshirt Banter came up with a fourth line of Jesper Fast, Josh Jooris and Michael Grabner that would be extremely effective at suppressing shots, with enough speed and offensive skill to avoid being one dimensional. And when they do their job, it makes life for a Vesey-Hayes-Buchnevich line that much easier.

It’s a shame that the Rangers’ defense is still in a bit of a shambles, with Girardi and Staal seemingly still penciled in for big roles. Because if the defense was better, this team would be a legitimate cup contender. There is still $2.525 million in cap space, so something could theoretically happen, but nothing is certain.

For now, I think its fine to be content with the big improvements made to the Rangers’ lineup, as well as to their prospect pool with the addition of Vesey and NCAA defenseman John Gilmour. Even if the Rangers don’t win anything this year, the 2016-17 season will be an important and exciting one for the development of all of this young talent.

Posted on August 20, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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