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Vesey Hoping to Carry Momentum from Playoffs into Sophomore Season

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

A lot can change in a year. Just ask Jimmy Vesey.

Twelve months ago, the forward out of Harvard was the focus of the hockey world for most of the summer before signing with the Rangers on Aug. 19. Now, his focus is solely on improving after a successful rookie campaign in 2016-17.

"I think it's different in some ways," Vesey told in a recent interview when asked about how he's approaching this year as opposed to last. "I know what training camp will be like and I know what the training is. I tried to kind of gear my workouts towards that. Just in general, I tried to get myself stronger and faster, which I think I've done.

"Just going into camp as a second-year guy, I think I probably have a little more confidence knowing I can play at this level," the 24-year-old added. 

Vesey, who spent four seasons at Harvard, posted 16 goals and 11 assists for 27 points in 80 games last season. And while he said he was pleased with his regular season, he felt his game improved as the year went on, especially in the playoffs, when he registered a goal and four assists while playing a top-six role. 

"I think it was a good year," Vesey said. "Obviously I spent the whole year in the NHL, which was nice. I think I learned a lot about myself as a person and as a player. I definitely went through some ups and downs, but in the end - especially in the playoffs - I think I came out much improved from the summer before in college.

"Even though the team lost earlier than we would have liked to," Vesey continued, "I think the playoffs could serve as good momentum for me going into this year."

Video: NYR@OTT, Gm5: Vesey lays out for first playoff goal

Vesey's strong finish is made more impressive by the amount of games the Boston-native played. When factoring the Traverse City prospect tournament, preseason, the regular season and postseason, Vesey eclipsed more than 100 games in roughly nine months.

But despite the demanding schedule, Vesey said he felt good physically, albeit with some aches and pains that all players must endure. 

An area Vesey said he wants to improve on is contributing when he's not finding his name on the scoresheet.

"Everyone talks about the rookie wall, everyone's favorite expression, but physically I thought I did well," he said. "I just think consistency and getting myself ready for every game mentally sometimes more than physically. I have to make sure that even if I'm not scoring, I'm doing positive things for the team every game."

Year One was a learning experience for Vesey, and he certainly had help from inside the Rangers' dressing room, leaning on veterans - and young veterans - to help him through the rigors of the schedule all rookies must adjust to.
"We had a great veteran group for forwards," Vesey said. "I spent a lot of time with Rick Nash, which was really good for me to learn from. [Mats Zuccarello] is another older guy up front. I sat next to him at MSG for the games, so I was always in contact with him. Even Kevin [Hayes], even though he's younger" than them.

Vesey and Hayes trained together throughout the summer in Foxboro, MA., and Hayes said all first year players quickly see where they stack up physically against other NHLers. 

"He's buying into it this year," Hayes said of Vesey. "He definitely wants to get into better shape than last year. Not that he was in bad shape, but everyone goes through their first season in the NHL and you have that wow moment where you think you're in shape and then you play 82 games … He probably played over 100 games. He knows what he has to do."

A selling point for Vesey to join the Rangers last season was the fact the organization has been a competitive team for more than a decade, and he doesn't expect that to change this season, especially with the new additions to the roster.

"I think the Rangers are always a competitive team, and this year will be no different," he said. "We might have a little different personnel, but I think signing Kevin Shattenkirk in free agency was a big deal. He was probably the top free agent on the market, and having him as a dynamic power play defenseman is a big plus for us." 

With his first season in the NHL in the books and a summer full of training home in Massachusetts , Vesey expects the experience of the last 12 months to make him a better player come October.

"I think I know the ropes now," he said, "and hopefully I can use that to my advantage this year."

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