While all of the Rangers' organization, from the front office to the fanbase, was elated back on Aug. 19 when college free agent Jimmy Vesey chose New York over a suit of other teams, no one inside the Rangers' dressing room was happier than forward Kevin Hayes.
"He called me on Friday, I think," Hayes told BlueshirtsUnited.com in a recent telephone interview. "He called me while I was up in Boston and he told me he chose the Rangers. I couldn't be happier for him."
Hayes and Vesey's relationship dates back years, back to when the two played together as kids near the Boston, Mass.-area in mites and squirts. The two then went their separate ways as Hayes headed back to Dorchester, a suburb south of Boston. The two would have their paths cross as opponents at prep school and again in college, when Hayes attended Boston College and Vesey attended Harvard.
Hayes said it was then the two became closer again. This past summer, Hayes said they worked out nearly every day together and then began skating together over the last several weeks in preparation for the upcoming season.
"I think [the Rangers] are a great fit for him," Hayes said of Vesey. "He's going to fit in with what we do here. I think the organization is going to give him a really good chance to succeed and be the best player he could be."
Vesey, 23, is coming off two very strong seasons with the Crimson, including 24 goals and 22 assists for 46 points in 33 games as a senior, good enough to earn him the Hobey Baker Award as the country's top collegiate hockey player, the second time he was up for the honor.
"He's definitely a fast, power forward," Hayes said of Vesey. "[He] has a goal scorer's touch. He's pretty good with the puck and can make some plays. The Rangers are definitely happy and lucky to have him."
Hayes said while the statistics are strong, they could be deceiving to what kind of player Vesey actually is. He said the 6-foot-3, 203-pounder is the prototypical power forward who doesn't shy away from anything on the ice.
"Everyone looks at him as a skill guy," Hayes said, "but I think he's a powerful guy who drives to the net who is not afraid of going to the bad areas. I think he likes flying under the radar with that type of skill. Everyone thinks because he's scored a lot of goals, everyone thinks he's a great shooter. He's actually a really powerful power forward that isn't afraid."
Hayes has traveled the same road as Vesey is more ways than one, including getting his first taste of professional hockey at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, which Vesey will be a part of beginning next week in Michigan.
Hayes took part in the tournament weeks after signing with the Rangers as a college free agent in August 2014 and used it as a springboard to making the Rangers out of camp as a rookie.
"It's definitely nerve racking," Hayes said of the tournament. "It's the first time [you're] playing professionally. You don't really know the team or know who your coach is. Hopefully it's a preseason before the training camp. That's what I looked at it as. You want to impress the guys in the stands but you want to get in the best game shape you can going into training camp.