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Thoughts On Jimmy Vesey

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A look at Vesey's numbers suggest a future NHLer, but what kind is somewhat less certain.

Matej Divizna/Getty Images

OK, so Jimmy Vesey, the left winger from Harvard, is going to become an unrestricted free agent in August. That the Leafs hired his father as a scout and drafted his brother Nolan makes them an obvious potential landing spot for Vesey, and most Canadian media outlets will be happy to report on the story as much as possible because, hey, any good news related to the Leafs brings in viewers/readers. Click click click, Mr. Websworth! Click click click!

Of course, the Leafs will be just one of 29 teams who will undoubtedly call and enquire about the young winger's services come August, because even a GM whose brain is powered by lemons could figure out that a free prospect is a good thing. Just ask the Boston Bruins, who are also salivating at the chance at a free lunch, since Vesey grew up a 30 minute drive from TD Gardens, was a big Bruins fan growing up, and whose father even briefly played for the Bruins. Long story short, it's still probably a long shot that the Leafs can sign Vesey.

With all of this being said, what is a prospect like Vesey worth? What could he bring to an organization? What could he bring to the Leafs?

The Basics

Jimmy Vesey seems like a smart kid. He was tempted by the Nashville Predators at the end of his season last year to come join the big club instead of finishing his degree at Harvard, but he decided to stick around:

"It was a really tough decision for me," Vesey said this week at Nashville's development camp. "I sat down with my family and we kind of weighed our options. At the end of the day, I just wanted to make sure I got that degree from Harvard because hockey is not going to last forever and that's something good to fall back on. I'm going to wait one more year and finish my college season and hopefully sign after the year."

You can point to the fact that I'm a teacher and say that I'm biased, but the truth is, the overwhelming majority of third round picks don't have an NHL career at all, and so Vesey looking out for his future is a good idea.

The other aspect of Vesey's decision to stay at Harvard for another year that I appreciate is that, broadly, I think more players should exercise their right not to play for the teams that drafted them. It can be a great career move getting to pick where you play and figuring out which organization you have the best chance of succeeding with.

Next up are Vesey's point totals (from HockeyDB, linked above):

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM +/-
Dec-11 South Shore Kings EJHL 45 48 43 91 52
2012-13 Harvard University ECAC 27 11 7 18 25
2013-14 Harvard University ECAC 31 13 9 22 14
2014-15 Harvard University ECAC 37 32 26 58 21 23
2015-16 Harvard University ECAC 33 24 22 46 6 11

The last two years are good, especially for a 3rd round pick, there's no doubt about that. But just how good are they?

A Closer Look At Those Point Totals

As great as it is to have two seasons at more than a point-per-game in the NCAA, this is perhaps more common than you might think.

Sam Anas, the guy leading Vesey's league in scoring right now is the same age and has three, not two, seasons of more than point-per-game hockey, and has gone entirely undrafted. OK, so he's 5'8'' and 155 lbs, but still. (Note: this may well have changed - the numbers at ECAC may be out of date.)

Rounding out the top 5 scoring leaders is Tyson Spink, who has had two years of about a point-per-game, and while his totals certainly aren't as good as Vesey's, he's gone entirely undrafted.

Meanwhile, in the NHL, there are a number of forwards who have come from the ECAC with whom we can compare Vesey's scoring. The list I've linked is from 2014, but it's a good starting point to look for comparable players, since it gives us a couple extra NHL years of experience to base our comparisons on.

Name NHL Team Years in ECAC GP Pts PPG
Chris Higgins Vancouver 2 55 72 1.31
Dominic Moore NYR 4 128 147 1.15
Jimmy Vesey ? 4 128 144 1.13
Lee Stempniak Boston 4 135 151 1.12
Jesse Winchester Colorado 4 142 156 1.1
Brandon Pirri Anaheim 1 39 43 1.1
Matt Moulson Buffalo 4 134 138 1.03
Riley Nash Carolina 3 102 102 1
Erik Cole UFA 3 103 103 1
TJ Galiardi Winnipeg* 1 33 31 0.93
David Jones Calgary 3 100 92 0.92
Mark Arcobello Toronto 4 131 116 0.89
Colin Greening Toronto 4 137 118 0.86
Rich Peverley Retired 4 138 117 0.85
Alex Killorn Tampa Bay 4 130 109 0.84
Brian Ferlin Boston 3 92 72 0.78
Tanner Glass NYR 4 124 82 0.66
Craig Adams Retired 4 109 62 0.57
Ryan Garbutt Anaheim 4 116 57 0.5
Aaron Volpatti Washington 4 123 62 0.5
Brandon Bollig Calgary 2 78 38 0.49

* TJ Galiardi is currently playing in the SHL.

Worth noting in these numbers is that some players only played their final year or two in the ECAC, so the freshman/sophomore years in a related league (ex. BCHL) are not counted. This means that the stats of, for example, Chris Higgins, are skewed, since only his two older, more productive years are counted. His PPG would likely drop if he had played in the ECAC as a younger man.

Certainly, there have been many other players to play in the NHL from the ECAC, and perhaps there are others that deserve mention as comparables to Vesey, but based on a quick glance at this list, there aren't many that jump out at me.

So yes, there are other players who have scored at a good clip over their two final years in the ECAC, but many of the men who went on to play in the NHL didn't score as much as Vesey has. There are some good players on this list, to be sure, and teams would be delighted to have a free Erik Cole or Matt Moulson, but in the end, we're probably not dealing with a star player.

The Scouting Report

Hockey's Future had this to say about Vesey:

Vesey is a big winger who is a skilled passer and sees the game well. He is more than just an up-and-down player as he possesses skill and smarts that make him a dangerous player in the offensive zone. Vesey does not shy away from the physical game but could be more active in that area. His defensive zone coverage is inconsistent at times.

To me, this sounds a bit like a Tyler Bozak-type player. In fact, they are even listed as being exactly the same height and weight on HockeyDB, though as we know well, weight is one thing that fluctuates a lot for NHL players and even more so for prospects, and there's no telling how accurate the numbers are to begin with.

Overall, Vesey looks like a solid prospect and appears to be a future NHLer, but what type of NHL career he'll have is entirely debatable. Will he be a Tyler Bozak? A Lee Stempniak? Riley Nash? Given the odds the Leafs have of signing him (decent, to be sure, but not "probable") and the odds he has of being a star, perhaps there is more excitement than substance at this point.

In any event, acquiring free NHL-level talent is something the Leafs will want to do, and it certainly looks like Vesey would be worth the team using up another SPC.