One of the biggest mistakes many college athletes make is turning pro before graduating from school with a degree. Nashville Predators prospect Jimmy Vesey is not about to make that mistake, too.
Despite being given the opportunity to play for the Predators in the upcoming season, Vesey will return to Harvard University to play out his senior season for the Crimson and achieve a degree in government.
“I want to get my degree, first and foremost,” Vesey said at Nashville’s development camp on Wednesday. “I want to make sure I finish school and not have to worry about it later on. I still think I can improve on a lot of stuff in terms of strength and speed. I can still get better at [hockey in] college and finish school at the same time.”
The Predators understandably respect Vesey’s decision.
“[Vesey] looks like a pro now,” Preds assistant general manager Paul Fenton said in an interview with the Nashville Post in February. “He’s got a natural instinct for scoring – seven, eight scoring chances a game [and] a determination. I see him as being able to help us sooner than later, if he so deems it – but I’d never tell a kid to leave Harvard.”
“That was awesome [the Predators] were so good with my decision,” Vesey said. “They were awesome with the whole process, so that’s great.”
After the year Vesey had for Harvard in 2014-15, it is not a shocker as to why the Preds would want him to turn pro. The North Reading, Massachusetts native placed third in scoring (58 points) and first in goals (32) among all NCAA Division I players. He was the recipient of the Walter Brown Award, given to the best American-born player playing college hockey in New England, and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker.
His year was as good, if not better, than highly touted Buffalo Sabres prospect Jack Eichel’s.
“It’s always an honor when you’re considered in the same category as someone like [Eichel],” Vesey said. “He’s a once in a generation talent. We played against him twice, and I got to see firsthand what he can do on the ice. He’s a great player. I was just honored to be a Hobey Baker finalist with him.”
Prior to Vesey’s junior season, he had only scored 40 points (24 G, 16 A) in 58 games during his freshman and sophomore years. The breakout year was surprising to say the least, but he credits the improvement to his teammates.
“A lot of different things factored in,” Vesey said. “I was a year older, more mature, and as a team, everyone was a year older, so we had the experience. I really focused on my conditioning last summer and took that to the next level, and that really helped me a lot. Just as a team, we changed the culture and decided we wanted to be a winning program.”
After University of Minnesota defenseman Mike Reilly bailed on the Columbus Blue Jackets, who drafted him in the fourth round in 2011, and signed with the Minnesota Wild this offseason, there is worry Vesey could do something similar. He, however, does not see that happening.
“When my season ends at Harvard, I would really like to sign [with Nashville] next spring and get some pro experience before heading into training camp [in 2016]. If the opportunity is right to sign here in Nashville, then it is going to be a no-brainer.”
Nashville should not worry, and instead, be excited about Vesey’s future with the organization. The goalscorer will play a huge role offensively in the coming years for the Predators.
Subscribe to our Predators stories to get email updates every time a new story is published.
Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW.