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Harvard coach praises Jimmy Vesey

Former NHL player Ted Donato says free agent forward is 'very humble, very much a team player'

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Free agent forward Jimmy Vesey was a thoughtful player during his four seasons at Harvard University, and coach Ted Donato believes that same quality will affect his decision to sign with an NHL team.

"Jimmy Vesey really kind of thinks things through," Donato told ESPN New Hampshire radio this week. "He's a very intelligent, low-key guy who had this opportunity and decided he thought in his best interest to have this once-in-a-career type chance. I see some places where it's been played out that, 'Who does this kid think he is? He hasn't played games in the [NHL].' It is certainly a rule that is at his disposal and he decided to use it. 

"I think, as people get to know him and as he does get started wherever that may be, they will find a kid that is very humble, very hard-working, very talented, very down to earth, very much a team player."

Vesey reportedly met with the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs the past two days, and is expected to make his decision soon.

The 23-year-old forward was a third-round pick (No. 66) of the Nashville Predators at the 2012 NHL Draft. The Predators hoped the 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner would sign with them after completing his senior season in March, offering Vesey a spot among their top six forwards heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Nashville ultimately traded Vesey's rights to the Buffalo Sabres for a third-round pick in the 2016 draft on June 20. The Sabres had exclusive negotiating rights with Vesey until Tuesday, when he became an unrestricted free agent.

Donato was asked what he thought might be the deciding factor in Vesey's decision.

"You want to make sure that you get yourself in a position where you think it's a great opportunity," he said. "That means you're going to have a chance to be a top-six forward and play with some talented guys in an offensive role. We're all understanding that it could take him some time to make it at that level.

"He's a very talented guy, but it's still a big jump and there's still going to be a transition period."

Vesey (6-foot-2, 201 pounds) had 46 points (24 goals, 22 assists) in 33 games last season, and 144 points (80 goals, 64 assists) in 128 games during his four NCAA seasons.

"I've talked to him at times throughout this process and I'm not sure anybody knew the life it would take on," Donato said. "He's certainly not the type of guy that looks for the spotlight. I really can't say that I'm comfortable trying to read into his mind, but there is a certain part of me that looks at it and is not all that enviable about having to go through this process.

"It is a great opportunity. He can really find out how some different organizations feel about him or see his potential role, but it also is a lot of pressure for a kid that is pretty low key and is really just excited to get his NHL career underway."

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