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Vesey Preparing for NHL Debut Thursday

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

The nerves and butterflies haven't arrived yet for Jimmy Vesey, but they could be on the way before his takes the ice for his NHL debut Thursday night against the Islanders.

"It's definitely on my mind but I wouldn't say I have butterflies just yet," Vesey told Tuesday afternoon. "Probably that'll happen the night before the game, day of the game. Right now [I'm] just trying to have a good couple of days of practice and get myself in the right mindset for the game and and know what I have to do."

Video: Vesey talks before his first NHL game

There have been adjustments for Vesey, 23, on and off the ice as he prepares for his first NHL season after four years at Harvard University. Off the ice, there are few responsibilities outside of focusing on the game. No classes or tests to divert him from the task at hand at the rink.

"It is very different," Vesey said of the lifestyle in the NHL versus college hockey. "Hockey is my job now. In college, I had to split my time between figuring out what I had to do for school work and then practice in the afternoon or games on the weekends. Now I can devote all my time to hockey, which I think is going to benefit me as a player. Being able to focus just on the game this year, I'll probably improve as a player and mature as a hockey player. I've liked it a lot. I love the city and looking forward to playing Thursday night."

On the ice, the 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner has had to adjust to the NHL game, which he said is the same as college, just with less time to make plays. 

"It's the same game, but just everything happens a little bit quicker, guys are a little bit stronger," Vesey said. "You don't have as much time and space out there to make plays. I've just got to adjust to the speed and find ways to make space for myself."

Video: NYR@PHI: Stepan connects with Vesey to tie the game

If practice is an indication then Vesey will open up the season on a line with Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello, two of the Rangers' top scorers from a season ago.

Vesey said their experience in the NHL will benefit him once the puck drops.

"I think as a young guy it's great to be able to play with those two guys," Vesey said. They've played a lot of games in this league and kind of know the tricks of the trade. I'm trying to learn as much as I can off of them. They've taught me a lot about communication and where to be on the ice. I'm looking forward to learning a lot from them."

Head coach Alain Vigneault said the key to the success of that line will be Stepan, whom the coach said is a strong communicator with his linemates.

"I think Step is good at working with his wingers," Vigneault said. "He understands the game and communicates it well. He's got a young player and our top scorer from last year playing with him, so we'll see how that line goes here moving forward."

This camp - his first in the NHL - has been a learning experience for Vesey, and he hasn't passed up the opportunity to ask questions and learn from some of the game's best.

"I'm a rookie, even though I'm 23. I don't have any games played in this league," Vesey stated. "I'm always trying to observe and ask questions. I think being on this team, we've got a good balance of young and veteran guys. I think just learning how hard the veterans work every day and seeing what they do on the ice, I can definitely learn a lot."

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