If anyone has watched the Toronto Maple Leafs All or Nothing documentary on Amazon Prime, you know that Jimmy Vesey was a topic of conversation. Head coach Sheldon Keefe has an exchange with Vesey on the ice during episode two. Keefe tells him”we brought you here to make a difference and I just want to be sure you know that’s it’s been very vanilla.” Vesey responds to Keefe “it sounds like you don’t understand my game and I’m about to be out of town.” Soon enough Vesey was put on waivers and claimed by the Vancouver Canucks.
There were questions coming into this season about Vesey. He did not receive a contract with any team. The New Jersey Devils brought him in on a professional tryout. However, throughout training camp and preseason, he adapted his game to earn a contract. And if it was not for his ability to adapt and learn from the past, Jimmy Vesey might not be playing in the NHL this season.
Jimmy Vesey Learns From Past Mistakes
Vesey entered the league with a lot of clot behind him. The 2016 Hobey Baker winner for best college player while at Harvard, was drafted in the third round of the 2012 NHL Draft by the Nashville Predators. His rights were traded to the Buffalo Sabres before ultimately signing with the New York Rangers. In his first season (2016-17) in the league with the Rangers, he scored 16 goals. He followed that up with 17 goals in each of the next two seasons. From there, his production dipped. He scored nine goals with Buffalo in the 2019-20 season. And just five goals last season with Toronto and Vancouver.
So coming into training camp on a PTO was not the ideal situation for a player who has a scoring touch. However, Vesey remained optimistic. He knew he was going to have to prove himself in a new system and with a new team. But for Vesey, playing for a familiar coach in Lindy Ruff certainly helped his confidence. But he knew he could not rest on his relationship with Ruff if he was going to make the Devils. He was going to have to put in the hard work, but the team knew what he could bring and it was on display during the training camp scrimmages. And Vesey absolutely earned his role on the Devils.
“Well, I think what he did to earn is we like his game, and his game is different than it was in college or with the Rangers,” general manager Tom Fitzgerald said on the Jeff Marek Show. “He knows where he is at in his career and what he brings and knows what he needs to be a player that continues to play at the NHL level.”
And just like Dubas and Keefe did, Fitzgerald had to have frank conversations with him about what kind of player he was going to be going forward to be successful.
Transitioning to a New Role
Learning to adapt to new roles is hard for any player. However, Vesey in order to make the Devils he had to find something and make it his own.
“We had frank talks with him about transitioning his game and rebooting yourself into something else, Fitzgerald continued with Marek. “Be a penalty killer, be a guy who blocks shots, be a guy who gets to the net and uses his big frame. Be a guy who finishes checks and hold onto the pucks and changes and do it again. And show us you can a versatile player.”
And that is something Vesey did show the coaching staff and one role he picked up very quickly is on the penalty kill. He had some experience playing on the penalty kill when Lindy Ruff was with the Rangers. And that is the role he is doing well. Not only that but he is using his big frame and driving the net. That is how he scored the Devils’ third goal of the night against the Seattle Kraken on Tuesday night.
As Tom Fitzgerald said, “we have enough skill, we need players who are willing to play heavy and take hits.” Vesey is showing that and that is why is on the Devils roster.
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