The Canucks bolstered their offensive depth on Wednesday, claiming 27-year-old forward Jimmy Vesey off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. The former Hobey Baker Award winner appeared in 30 games for the Leafs this season, registering five goals and seven points.
Vesey is a reliable middle-six to bottom-six winger who has demonstrated strong scoring ability throughout his five-year NHL career. The Boston, Massachusetts native averaged just shy of 17 goals per season in his first three years with the Rangers before being traded to Buffalo in the 2019 offseason.
Vesey scored nine goals and 20 points in 64 games for the Sabres and also led all forwards with a plus-12 rating. Vesey opted to sign with the Maple Leafs as an unrestricted free agent this past summer, where he showcased some solid attributes that should have Vancouver excited for what's to come.
Vesey possesses a heavy wrist shot and has been a consistent even-strength scorer in his career. 56 of his 64 NHL goals and 100 of his 117 points have come at even strength. His 12.1 career shooting percentage speaks to the accuracy of his shot. Vesey has averaged 0.74 goals at 5v5 per 60 minutes over the last three seasons, which puts him fifth on the Canucks behind only Tanner Pearson, Brock Boeser, J.T Miller and Elias Pettersson in that span.
When looking at the underlying numbers, one thing that stands out with Vesey is his ability to generate high-danger scoring chances. He ranked seventh on a loaded Maple Leafs team with 16 iHDCF at even-strength, which means he's getting himself to prime scoring areas and generating high-quality opportunities.
There might not be a better example of Vesey going to the net and getting rewarded than one of his two goals he scored in a March contest against the Oilers. With the Leafs pressing in the offensive zone and bodies changing, Vesey showcased his speed as he came flying off the bench, went straight to the net and buried a loose puck to open the scoring.
Video: TOR@EDM: Vesey comes off bench and nets opening goal
Vesey was also a regular penalty killer on a Maple Leafs PK unit that has only given up 42 high-danger chances this season - tops in the North Division. The winger averaged 51 seconds of shorthanded ice per game and has routinely averaged around a minute per game on the penalty kill throughout his career.
Vesey has been an enticing option for coaches in these situations due to his large 6'3", 202 lbs frame. He's demonstrated a unique ability to read plays as they unfold and get his stick in both passing and shooting lanes. Maple Leafs' head coach Sheldon Keefe gave praise to Vesey's defensive game in Toronto and never hesitated from deploying him when the Leafs needed a big kill.
When it comes to where Vesey will slot into Vancouver's roster, there's plenty of options, as Vesey has shown the ability to play up-and-down an NHL lineup. He spent the majority of time in Toronto on a line with Jason Spezza and Travis Boyd, but also spent time on Toronto's second line with John Tavares and William Nylander. That trio had a 60.7 CF% together and Vesey capitalized on some good passing plays by utilizing his strong finishing ability.
Video: MTL@TOR: Vesey ties it off turnover in 3rd
Vesey had a difficult time finding his place on one of the deepest offensive teams in the NHL, but there's a chance for him to rediscover the spark in Vancouver. There's no doubting the skill is in place, as Vesey was a two-time Hobey Baker Award finalist and won the prestigious trophy as college hockey's top player back in 2016.
Vesey is only a few years removed from being a dependable goal scorer in the Big Apple and managed to be productive for a poor Sabres team. He found himself on the outside looking in on a stacked Toronto squad and just needs the right opportunity to get back on track. He'll get that chance to prove his worth in Vancouver.
The Harvard graduate is signed to a one-year contract worth $900,000 and will be a UFA at the end of the 2020-21 season. Given his above-average shot, penalty kill ability and willingness to drive to the dirty areas, this is a bargain that could pay off nicely for a Canucks team chasing the final playoff spot in the North Division standings.