By any measure, the first half of Jimmy Vesey's first season in the National Hockey League has been a success.
Through 41 games, the 23-year-old is ninth in scoring among rookies with 19 points and is tied for fourth with 11 goals.
Now the goal is to make sure the good times continue into the second half, as the former Harvard University star heads into uncharted waters in terms of games played. His 41 games are already more than he's played since entering college for the 2012-13 season, with his high mark coming in his junior season when he played 37 games.
The 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner said he's worked extensively with Rangers Strength and Conditioning coach Reg Grant to focus on recovery after what has been a grueling first half of the season for New York thanks in large part to the NHL's condensed schedule.
"I've just been talking with Reg a lot and seeing what I could do in the gym to help myself," Vesey told NYRangers.com last week. "There's all sorts of stretching, exercises, cold tub, stuff like that. I've been conscientious of communicating with him and I think it's been a big help."
Vesey said in addition to maintaining good diet and work out habits, he's also focused on sleeping well and just getting into the routine of being a professional hockey player. No longer are games on the weekend sandwiched between classes and studying; now, hockey is the No. 1 focus.
"I'm definitely in a routine now," Vesey said. "Me and Brady [Skjei] settled into an apartment and just getting into the rhythm of waking up at the same time and heading to the rink. I think I have a routine established at the rink both on practice days and game days I think I've adjusted myself. Hockey is my job now and I've definitely started to get into the routine of it."
Video: SJS@NYR: Vesey nets Stepan's feed for first NHL goal
Skjei went through a similar transition last year during his first season of professional hockey with Hartford (AHL) after ending his collegiate career at the University of Minnesota. Like Vesey, Skjei said it came down to making the right choices with his body to gear up for a more grueling schedule than what he was accustomed to.
"I think a lot of it is maintaining your body, taking care of your body and eating good food," Skjei said. "Getting enough sleep, enough water in you because once you start to get worn down, it's tough to come back from that. In Hartford last year, I focused on that and made sure I got my rest when I could. I think it went pretty well."
While the physical aspect of an 82-game NHL season is a lot for a young player, head coach Alain Vigneault said it's also mental. That, he said, is what separates Vesey from other players who have made the transition in the past.
"I think a lot of that has to do with the individual himself," Vigneault said. "One thing I've learned … is that Jimmy is a strong-minded individual. He's very mentally strong and focused. I see him taking care of himself on the ice and off the ice, doing the right things. I don't see [the longer schedule] being an issue.
"I've felt he's looked real good," Vigneault added, "and I expect that to continue because he's mentally focused and mentally strong."
Kevin Hayes knows what Vesey is going through, having gone down the similar path as Vesey two years ago. After spending four seasons at Boston College, Hayes signed with the Rangers and had similar expectations as Vesey early on.
Hayes said the key to success for a rookie is playing well early and not becoming complacent, but rather trying to improve game after game.
"It's a long season. Yeah it has ups and downs, but I think he's handled it well so far," Hayes said. "When you've had so much success early on like he has, you get used to it. Instead of being happy that you're in the NHL, he kind of challenges himself to score every night, to get points every night and play good defensively. The earlier you can do that in your career, the more it comes naturally.
"I think he's accomplished that already," Hayes added. "I don't think anything about the longer season is going to affect him to be honest."