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Vesel adds sacrifice and physicality to his repertoire

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

EDMONTON, AB - Oilers Player Development lauds Tyler Vesel’s sacrifice.

Since being taken 153rd overall in the 2014 NHL Draft, the Oilers have monitored Vesel’s development while he played his first collegiate season at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. They were impressed by his passion for halting the rapid flight path of chunks of frozen rubber.

“I remember going to watch him in February,” said Oilers Sr. Director of Player Development Rick Carriere. “I went and talked to the (Nebraska-Omaha) trainer and asked him how Tyler is going. He said, ‘you wouldn’t believe how many shots he blocks.’ That’s the first thing he told me. (Vesel) loves blocking shots. He’s a shot blocker. We always talk about wanting guys to lay it on the line and sacrifice. There’s no hesitation for him.”

It’s not necessarily an instinctual habit for Vesel to throw his body in front of incoming pucks. It was instilled in him as a teenager while attending a prestigious boarding school in Minnesota.

“I kind of took that role back when I played at Shattuck St. Mary’s,” said Vesel. “My coach there, Coach (Tom) Ward and even my Under-16 Coach Christian Bragnalo, they harped on blocking shots. It’s something that’s overlooked in the game today. If you’re blocking that shot then that scoring opportunity is not going to be there. Whenever I get on the penalty kill, that’s the first thing I’m looking for is to block that shot and help my goalie out. I’ve taken great pride in it. I feel like when I’m doing it, everyone else behind me is doing it. It’s a great skill I’ve picked up and I’m glad people have noticed it.”

Vesel is not just a one-trick pony. The 21-year-old forward from Rochester, MN is considered a very good skater with a solid two-way game. After one full season in the NCAA, in which he scored eight goals and added 15 assists in 39 games, Vesel can list physicality on his resumé as well.

“I would say I’m more physical. I’ve got a tougher game. I play a bit more heavy than I used to,” said Vesel. “My coach just nags on playing hard and playing physical. I’ve grown in that area.”

The 5-foot-11, 181-pound freshman also improved his foot speed this past season. He found it easier to keep up with the older players of the NCAA after a couple weeks of adjustment.

“It’s tough. For me, personally, it took a couple weeks of games to really get into it,” said Vesel. “Physically, mentally, it’s just a whole different ball game. It took me the first couple weeks to kind of get used to it and then kind of excel from there. Guys are older, more experienced. You’ve just got to adapt.”

Photo by Nebraska-Omaha Athletics.

After learning to play a heavier game and growing comfortable with his surroundings, Vesel became a contributor as one of 10 freshmen on the team. All 10, including Vesel, were named to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Academic All-Conference Team for the 2014-15 season.

Vesel and the youthful Mavericks made it to the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals, where they were eliminated by the eventual National Champion Providence Friars.

“We were young, but we had great leadership from our seniors,” said Vesel. “It was their presence that led us all the way to the Frozen Four game against Providence. We ended up losing that game, but overall it was a great season. For myself, I got a lot of opportunity. I was put in a great spot and ended up doing pretty well. I’ve got to hand it to my teammates and coaches for the success I had this year.”

Vesel has a lot to be excited about heading into his sophomore season. There is always the potential for an expanded role, coupled with another year of experience. Also, the Mavericks will open their new home, Baxter Arena, at the start of the season.

“We’ve got a new rink next year, everybody is excited,” said Vesel. “We’re going to be playing better, we’re going to be playing in front of all these fans cheering for us. Our fan base is great, they cheer us on every night. We all play better when the surroundings are top notch.”

A year stronger and more experienced, Vesel will try to make good impressions at Oilers Orientation Camp. He already made good impressions on Player Development and his coaching staff down in Omaha this year.

“The coaches loved him,” said Carriere.

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