Summertime is ideal to get away with family and friends from the pressures of the workplace to recharge the batteries before grinding out the remainder of the year. That won’t be the case for the New York Rangers’ front office. No, the organization is undergoing a massive rebuild with plenty of questions that need to be answered before the start of next season.
One of the biggest questions is determining what type of player Jimmy Vesey will be. General manager Jeff Gorton hopes Vesey has a key role in the Rangers rebuild, but nothing is guaranteed for 2018-19.
Vesey’s Inconsistency Evolves into Solid Production
His sophomore campaign was very inconsistent, at times, Vesey seemed lost without any direction on the ice, only to rebound and become a solid goal-scorer after the purge to the roster at the trade deadline. He connected well with his new teammates by scoring six goals and 10 points in 18 games following the Feb. 26 deadline. The majority of the goals were scored from point-blank range, with Vesey capitalizing on good feeds to put the puck past the netminder. This added production could become an absolute bonus for the Rangers heading into next season.
Scoring of this nature would suggest that Vesey has the potential of becoming a physical power forward who plants himself in front of the crease and becomes a major distraction for any opposing goaltender. He has the size (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) and toughness to excel in this role as Vesey isn’t afraid to mix it up if a disagreement develops on the ice.
Now, I’m not asking Vesey to become the “next Adam Graves,” but he must remain aggressive in the offensive zone and use his big frame as an advantage heading towards the net. Vesey becomes a dangerous playmaker when he uses his outstanding skating ability to go around an opposing defender to create a scoring opportunity for himself or his linemates.
New Linemates Kickstarted Vesey’s Progression
The disposed coach of the Rangers, Alain Vigneault, juggled his lineup all season with the intention of finding Vesey’s comfort zone, which would simultaneously kickstart his offensive game into gear. He seemed to be squeezing the stick and becoming more of a spectator rather than a participant in the offensive zone. All of the lineup shuffling allowed Vesey to search and seek which teammates he jelled best with on the ice. His play greatly improved after being teamed with Vladislav Namestnikov and Pavel Buchnevich as linemates.
At first, patience was needed for this trio during the transitional period following the deadline trades, but once the chemistry was formed, this line has given the Madison Square Garden faithful some hope for the future. Each has benefited from the other in getting good scoring chances near the crease. Their ability to put the puck past the goaltender has provided some much-needed scoring depth on the roster heading into next season.
Vesey’s Outlook for 2018-19
The one blemish that could limit Vesey’s ice time in close games is his defensive struggles, but his development in this area isn’t over. He has the work ethic to get better, and the determination to win puck battles along the boards in his own zone. Vesey must show the discipline needed to become a top two-way player, but results must be shown before he secures more ice time in games.
Maybe, I’m in the minority, but I think Vesey has the talent to succeed in the NHL. Yes, there is a role available for him on the roster, but he must come into next training camp with the intent of having a breakout season. Vesey has a good idea of the goal for next fall as it’s his opportunity to become a top-nine forward rather than settling for a fourth-line left winger position.
The 2018-19 season is Vesey’s time to shine or he runs the risk of being shipped out of town. Either Vesey claims his spot in the lineup or someone else will, it’s that simple.
Thomas Conroy covers the Vegas Golden Knights for The Hockey Writers Network He has been writing about sports since 2007, first as a contributor for Bleacher Report and Football Nation. Recently, Conroy was a co-editor for the Bolts Beat website on Fansided. To read more his work, please him on Twitter @tsconroy