The Rangers' Boston connection helped to bring the nation's top college player to New York on Friday, when the Blueshirts inked forward Jimmy Vesey to an entry-level contract.
General Manager and Massachusetts-native Jeff Gorton, accompanied by Director of Player Development and Boston University alum Chris Drury, met with Vesey this week to sell him on New York. Throughout the process, Rangers forward Kevin Hayes — who trains with and played youth hockey alongside Vesey — also sold him on the perks of joining the Original Six squad that calls Manhattan home.
"Obviously I'm good friends with Kevin Hayes," Vesey said on a conference call Friday night. "He's someone I've known since childhood. We played a little bit together growing up and we work out and skate together in the summer."
Hayes was in a similar spot as Vesey two summers ago. After completing his senior year at Boston College, Hayes — a former first-round pick of Chicago — met with interested teams before joining New York. That experience helped Vesey make his decision.
"I talked to Kevin a lot," said Vesey, this year's Hobey Baker Award winner for the nation's best college player. "He went through the same process as me two years ago, so I leaned on him a lot during the process. He had a big impact on me."
A move to a new team and city is always an adjustment for any player, especially one coming into the National Hockey League after four years with the same institution. Gorton said the familiarity with several players, including Chris Kreider, could make that transition a bit smoother for Vesey.
"I think it'll be big for him to know people and to have people that understand where he came from and how they're doing in the league," Gorton said. "I think the experience of that will help"
Drury, a former Hobey Baker Award winner himself, also left an impression on the 23-year-old winger based on what he accomplished as player.
"Chris Drury was someone I was really impressed with during the meeting with the Rangers," Vesey admitted. "He's someone I respect a lot based on what he's done in his career."
Gorton, who appointed Drury to his role as director of player development last September, also said the former Rangers captain played a "significant" role in bringing Vesey aboard.
"I would say it was very significant," Gorton said when asked about the role Drury played. "I've gotten to know (Chris) a lot since we hired him over the last year. He's a pretty special guy. Lots of character and he's done lots of different things in the game and sports in general.
"He's a great voice in the room," Gorton added. "(He's) a guy who won the Hobey Baker. I think there's a lot of things Jimmy can draw from and see himself a little bit in."