Arguably one of the biggest non-Steven Stamkos-related news stories this offseason was the hot topic of where forward Jimmy Vesey would begin his National Hockey League career.
Would he decide to stay in Buffalo and build with the current foundation of blossoming talent? Or maybe he would travel to the Madhouse on Madison and play for the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks? Or maybe he would go join his father and brother within the Maple Leafs organization?
Speculation no longer needs to be.
This rollercoaster of a story gracefully found its way to completion when free agent prospect, and former Buffalo Sabres property, Jimmy Vesey signed a two-year entry-level contract with the New York Rangers on Friday afternoon.
From the post-signing news conference, it seemed very easy to pair both Jimmy Vesey and the New York Rangers.
“The thing that jumped out at me was that they (New York) came to really want me,” Vesey told media members. “It seemed that they really needed to have me in their lineup and it seemed that they believe in me. That was something that I was looking for.”
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) August 19, 2016
Looking back, there were 57 days and a dream. A dream of the Buffalo Sabres not only owning the rights to Vesey, but signing him to his first NHL deal. Would the possibility of Vesey flanking Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart on the second line have been nice? You are damn right it would have been, but life sucks and you should probably get used to it.
Vesey to the Rangers is indeed a blow to the hull of the Sabres’ ship, but by no means a damaging blow. To quote famous ska-losophers Reel Big Fish, losing Vesey to the Rangers is “not the end of the world”.
Sabres fans had been banking on the arrival of Vesey and why not?
At this point, the Sabres will likely dust themselves off and move on to the next one. Less of a gigantic splash and more of subtle dive into the shallow end of the free agent pool. Expect to hear names like free agent forward Jiri Hudler and Brandon Pirri rumored. Both are worthwhile to take a cheap shot on, likely to fill a third-line right wing position.
As for the “Vesey hole” on the second line left wing, expectations need to be leveled fast. Remember Tyler Ennis, our lovable little Jeff Spicoli-looking, chocolate milk hawker on those cringeworthy MSG commercials? From all accounts, he appears to be healthy and recovered after only playing 23 games last season due to a nasty concussion he suffered last season. Ennis is likely to start season on the second line, flanking Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. If it seems like we are trying to let you down easy, you are right. Just remember, Ennis was averaging 17 goals a season in his last 5 seasons, before the 2015-16 season. The world will not come to an end, yet.
Many people have hyped Vesey into being the next big thing, with many of those prognosticators hailing from the Western New York area. Yes, the area as a whole indeed has some egg on their collective faces, but the best takeaway from this all is that general manager Tim Murray was willing to take the bold shot in the dark to get Vesey. The Sabres did indeed give up a third-round pick (71st overall), but as research shows the risk was absolutely worth the reward.
Scott Cullen of TSN did the research back in 2014, and revealed that from the 2009 to 2013 NHL Entry Level Draft, “about 29.3-percent of third-round (61-90) picks” will play at least 100 games in the NHL.
To go one step further, Cullen tells us that the average rating of picks 71-80 rated a 2.32, which falls under his created category of “Minor Leaguer/Less than 50 NHL games”. Cullen states that 8.5-percent of the players drafted 71-80 are ranked seven or better, which falls into his created category of “first line forward/top pair defense”. Players in this category are Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick and ex-NHL forwards Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal. On the flip side, 83-percent of those draft picks are rated five or worse, with five being his created category of “NHL regular”. To wrap the stats dump up, roughly 26.5-percent of players drafted 71-80 from 2000 to 2009 have played (or will play) in at least 100 NHL games.
TSN’s Travis Yost took it a step further and subsequently confirmed Cullen’s research back in February 2015, when he found that between the 2000 and 2009 NHL Entry Level Draft, roughly 30-percent of players drafted in the 3rd round of the NHL Entry Level Draft had became “low-level or better NHL’ers.”
Vesey is no slouch though. Through 128 games at Harvard, he tallied 144 points (80 goals, 44 points). The Nashville Predators identified Vesey’s potential NHL talent back in 2012, when Vesey was selected in the third round (66th overall) just before his freshman season at Harvard. Over four seasons with the Harvard Crimson, Vesey showed flashes of very elite talent, capped by his winning of the 2016 Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s most valuable player. Vesey, himself, said he will not be a savior for the New York Rangers, but he certainly will be much welcomed depth to a franchise that is still trying to capture a Stanley Cup before its window closes. If expectations are kept at bay, getting 30-40 points from Vesey in a rookie season should be welcomed from Rangers fans.
To dive back into the draft statistics quickly, looking back at Scott Cullen’s piece, the average rating of a draft pick from 61-70 is 2.45 (minor leaguer/less than 50 NHL games). 5.5-percent of the picks found themselves to be ranked seven or better (first line/top defense pair), with the list including ex-NHL forward Brad Richards, Bruins forwards David Backes and David Krejci and Penguins defenseman Kris Letang and 88-percent of picks are ranked five or worse (NHL regular). 37.5-percent of the players drafted 61-70 from 2000 to 2009 have played (or will play) in at least 100 NHL games.
With those statistics in our back pocket, it would be brash to say out of the gate that Vesey will be an NHL superstar. Using those stats to our advantage though, it should be safe to assume that he will end up at least being a serviceable NHL player. Many people have wanted to crown Vesey the next big thing, which is not fair to the player or the franchise he will play for.
“It definitely took on a life of its own, so to speak,” Vesey said to media members. “I’m not sure that me or anyone else expected that. That’s not something that I signed up for.”
The Buffalo Sabres definitely missed out on a talent, but Vesey is one of 23 players on an active roster. Vesey’s presence will not make or break a franchise. Now, we get to sit back and see if all the hype was really worth it.