Welcome to the 2016 edition of “Top Shelf Prospects”. As we go through the Summer of 2016 I will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. I will follow the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no trades). You can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted this year. There have been no games since then, and my reports on them will not have changed.
Jimmy Vesey Scouting Report
Today we take a break from our team-by-team reports to explore one of the top prospects in hockey, but one who will become a free agent on August 15th. The Nashville Predators drafted Jimmy Vesey in the third round, 66th overall, at the 2012 NHL Draft. Vesey went to Harvard, spending four full years in school. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in the 2014-15 season, losing to Jack Eichel. Vesey followed that up by winning the award, given to the best player in NCAA Division One hockey this past season. Vesey scored 24 goals and 46 points in 33 games this season. He finished his college career with 80 goals and 144 assists in 128 games.
The Predators tried hard to sign Vesey this spring, when his college season ended. However, Vesey indicated that he wanted to exercise his rights to be a free agent, and choose his team. Despite an offer that would have seen Vesey burn a year off his entry-level contract, and play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs; Vesey stuck to his desire to go to free agency. A draft day trade to the Buffalo Sabres has still not changed his mind. Vesey insists that he will become and unrestricted free agent on August 15th, 2016.
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born May 26 1993 — North Reading, MA
Height 6’1 — Weight 195 lbs [185 cm / 88 kg]
Vesey has good size, and plays a power forward game. He is a quick skater, with good acceleration and top end speed. Vesey has a powerful stride which allows him to fight through checks and drive to the front of the net. When he gets there, he has the soft hands to finish in close. He can also stand in front of the net, provide a screen and get tip-ins and rebounds. From further out, Vesey has a hard and accurate shot, that he gets off quickly. He protects the puck extremely well, with good stickhandling, and uses his body as a shield to play the cycle game. Vesey is well balanced and hard to knock off the puck or beat in a board battle.
Vesey’s playmaking ability is really coming along. One thing he can do is change speeds effectively which he uses to beat defenders wide, or slow up and create some space for a passing or shooting lane. He is a very intelligent player, who makes smart plays with the puck on his stick, and also finds ways to be dangerous without it.
Two way game
Vesey is also a good defensive player. He again shows high hockey IQ, reading plays well and breaking them up. When he creates a turnover, he is quick to find the streaking man, and start the transition game. He also knows how to get his body into shooting lanes and is not afraid to block shots. Vesey does a lot of the little things that coaches love. He was often given big responsibilities as a key member of the Harvard penalty kill.
Vesey looks like he is currently NHL ready. He will immediately step into the the top 6 of almost any team in the league. It is telling that the Predators were prepared to offer Vesey an immediate top-six role on a team headed to the playoffs. Whoever signs Vesey, will be getting themselves an instant Top Shelf Prospect. Whowever adds Vesey will feel like they got another first round pick without having to give up anything.