We learned of Tyler Vesel's game in 2016-17 when the 2014 sixth round (153rd-overall) pick was ripping up the NCAA's National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a junior. Vesel, an exercise science major, compiled 14 goals, 21 assists and 35 points in 39 games last campaign as a versatile forward capable of adhering to both sides of the ice. The 23-year-old is now a senior at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and wants to make the most out of his finite time in the NCAA. That much is known just by the highlight reel goal Vesel scored over the weekend against Arizona State University. EdmontonOilers.com caught up with Vesel to talk about his impressive tally and more.
Video: MINORS MINUTE | Vesel's highlight goal
How's the season so far?
"It's been good. We have some new coaching staff this year. We're a fairly older team. I think we have the third most juniors and seniors on our team, so I think that's going to help us in the long run but things are going well and we really love our coaches.
"In the first weekend, we split with UMass-Lowell, which is a pretty good weekend because Lowell is a good team. Last weekend, we won and tied against a more improved Arizona State University (ASU) team. We were hoping for the two wins there but it's something we can learn from and take with us the rest of the season. Overall, it's been a pretty good start and we're looking forward to this weekend against a really good Notre Dame team."
You mentioned the new coaching staff. Mike Gabinet, who was an assistant coach last season, is now at the helm. Has anything changed in terms of how the club plays?
"This year as the head coach, as far as system-wise, he has what he wants and he works really well with our assistant coaches and they're all on the same page. Everything around the rink, the culture that we're building, he's taken control and done a very good job with the guys. They listen to him and support what he's doing."
You were an alternate last year as a junior and expected to be a worthy candidate for the captaincy in your senior year. How's the leadership spread out this season?
"I'm an alternate and Joel Messner is the captain. He's done a great job and I don't take anything out of not being captain. I'm very happy with being the alternate captain on this team. There's a lot of guys that can be where I am so I'm very fortunate. Thankfully coach Gabinet chose me as an alternate."
Are you still playing on a line with Jake Randolph?
"Yup. I'm playing with Jake and David Pope, who's actually from Edmonton. He grew up in Edmonton."
You and Jake have played together forever - at least since your time with the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League. How's it been with Pope?
"It's been good. He's kind of a pure goal scorer and power forward. I think mine and Jake's game complement him. We're going to stick with it and we're all seniors so we know it's kind of our last chance. We play well off each other and we hope to build off the chemistry that Jake and I built, and try to bring David into it as well."
You scored a slick goal on the weekend (shown in Minors Minute) against ASU and it ended up being one of NCAA Hockey's top plays of the week. Can you describe the goal and what you were trying to do on the play?
"We were on the power play and I had the puck. We always talk about trying to 2-on-1 a defenceman going up the ice on the power play, and I kind of had it in the middle while Pope was on the wall and I saw the defenceman had his stick towards him. He was giving me the middle so I figured I'd try to attack the net and get a goal. I tried to put it through his stick but it ended up going through his skates and he kicked it. It ended up in my skates when I saw it.
"I like to play soccer before the game so I made a little soccer move and kicked it up to my stick. I've got this tendency that if I'm on my backhand, I like to go back up across and over the glove. My instincts kicked in and I went forehand-backhand, and I don't think he saw it. It ended up being a great play but ultimately it was a full team effort and everyone was in the right spots so I got a chance to make a move and make a play."
I follow NCAA Hockey on Facebook and their Top Five Plays video popped up on my feed. The first play I watched was your goal.
"(Laughing) That's pretty cool."
The No. 1 play was also from your game against ASU. Joey Daccord (ASU goalie) made a big sprawling save to keep the game tied in overtime.
"If we could have scored that, we would have won the game. That's what makes it more incredible, that he could make that save (late in overtime). He played well all night."
Any goals for yourself or the team in 2017-18?
"I try not to think too much about personal stats or whatever it may be. I think if our team does well, then I'm going to benefit from that so I take it day-by-day with that. If we win games and I'm on the power play or first line, you'd think that I would get some points to come with it. As long as our team is doing well and winning games, I'll benefit from it. Being my last year here and trying to move on, you just try to do the best you can. If you're getting points, awesome, but if not just stick with it."
Are you still the shot-blocking machine you were known as last year?
"I can be but I haven't been playing a whole lot of PK (penalty kill) this year, which I'm fine with. It saves me from some of the bruises and pain. It gives some of our other guys a chance to show what they got and I completely agree with that. I've had a few this year but nothing like the past three years. I can still do it, it's just there's not a whole lot of opportunity to."