Early on this season, New York Rangers rookie Jimmy Vesey was actually living up to all the hoopla that surrounded his signing. As winners of the Vesey sweepstakes, the Rangers had to be happy with the early returns.
Now Vesey has hit somewhat of a wall, as his scoring has dried up. It’s been an understandably tumultuous season for the Harvard University product, but the fact that the All-Star break has arrived in the middle of his low point is fortuitous for him and the Blueshirts.
Vesey has the opportunity to rest up, recharge, and be an integral part of the Rangers’ push toward the postseason and beyond.
Vesey got off to a very strong start for the Rangers. He quickly adapted to the speed of the NHL game and consistently displayed his good instincts in the offensive zone. He showed a nose for the net and a knack for being in the right place at the right time – hallmark qualities of good goal scorers.
The 23-year-old winger also provided evidence of his raw talent, particularly his strength and skill. His second of two goals against the Washington Capitals back on Oct. 22 is one of the Rangers’ most highlight-reel-worthy tallies of the season to this point.
Over the Rangers’ first 10 games, Vesey lit the lamp six times and added three assists. While that pace was certainly not going to persist, it was clear that Vesey had what it took to be a solid contributor to the Blueshirts’ attack.
As the season has progressed, though, Vesey has experienced a few dips in his play, none bigger than the quagmire in which he is currently stuck.
Hitting the Rookie Wall
After his strong start to the season, Vesey slowed down for a little while before hitting a nice little stretch across late November and early December, where he scored three goals in six contests. Then his struggles returned.
Lately, Vesey has been almost invisible on the ice. Part of that is because he has actually been on the ice less often, having eclipsed 12 minutes of ice time just three times in the past eight games. Previously, he had been seeing 15-16 minutes more often than not.
Over the past 10 contests, Vesey has failed to register a point. His last goal came in 2016, on New Year’s Eve. He has just two points in his past 19 games. There is a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation happening with Vesey, as his lack of production has justified his lower ice time, but his lower ice time has made it more difficult for him to have an impact.
While this is just speculation, it’s certainly possible that the grind of the long NHL season is starting to wear on Vesey a bit. He has played in 48 games so far this season, which is 11 more than the highest number of games he played in a season while he was in college. It’s always a factor in play with players who transition from college to a full-time NHL role, but it affects everyone differently.
Kevin Hayes, for instance, actually turned it on in the second half of his rookie season in 2014-15, a year after playing collegiately at Boston College. He notched 30 points in the final 41 regular-season games that season – twice the amount he accumulated in the first 41 games.
Vesey, to this point, has seen the opposite occur in his rookie year. Regardless of whether or not the dense schedule is a significant contributor to his scoring woes, the All-Star break should allow him to rest and recharge, both physically and mentally. The Rangers will need him to start producing again soon, especially with Hayes sidelined for another one to two weeks with a lower-body injury.
The more Vesey can contribute, the more difficult it is for opponents to stifle the Rangers’ deep offense. Look for the rookie to have a renewed jump in his step when the Blueshirts’ unofficial second half gets underway on Jan. 31.
Tom has been with The Hockey Writers for almost four years. After previously covering the LA Kings and the New York Rangers, Tom now covers the Anaheim Ducks.
While in college at Clemson University, the 2016 college football national champions, Tom wrote game summaries and feature articles for the official team website of the Greenville Drive, a Class-A minor-league baseball team and affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Tom is happy to be able to continue to fulfill his passions for sports and writing with THW.