Jimmy Vesey wanted to make a strong first impression.
Tied in the third period of his first home game as a member of the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, Vesey was alone at the offensive blue line when his linemate, Sam Reinhart, collected the puck and delivered a tape-to-tape stretch pass from deep in the defensive zone.
With only the goaltender in front of him, Vesey wanted to make sure he capitalized. He skated in alone on a breakaway and buried the puck in off the cross bar, then raised his arm and pumped his fist as the horn sounded. The Sabres' faithful banged on the glass behind him.
Video: TOR@BUF: Vesey roofs wrister on breakaway
It was the sort of finish that inspired the Sabres to acquire Vesey in a trade with the New York Rangers on July 1. Through three NHL seasons, the Harvard product has displayed a penchant for getting to opponents' nets and capitalizing on chances at even strength.
"Vesey's obviously just a pure goal scorer," Reinhart said. "As he showed the other night at home, when he gets an opportunity, he's putting the puck in the net. I think that's really valuable for us and something we really need."
Vesey sat down with Sabres.com after practice on Tuesday to discuss that goal, his first impressions of Buffalo, and more.
You score a breakaway goal in your first preseason game in Buffalo. What was your first impression of the atmosphere in this building?
I thought it was great. Obviously, Buffalo's known to have passionate fans. I definitely wanted to do something my first game here as a Sabre. I was lucky enough to get a great stretch pass from Sam and wanted to make sure I buried it.
It was definitely a good feeling. I know it's preseason, but I gave a little fist bump. I was excited.
What impression did Buffalo make during your trips here as a visitor?
Like I said, passionate fans, a good atmosphere. I think I always remembered the goal song, so that was cool to hear on the other side of it.
Something you'd like to hear more of?
I've heard you describe your game as having a blue-collar element. Where does that come from?
I think I've always had an ability to score goals. Even in college, every goal's not going to be pretty. If you look at the NHL, a lot of goals are scored right in front of the net. So, I guess from a young age, my dad was my coach and that was always something he harped upon. It just kind of stuck with me ever since.
I'm a bigger body, so I don't mind getting in front of the net and taking a cross-check to score a goal.
You were traded on July 1. How does that affect your summer logistically?
It wasn't too bad. I still prepared the same way, did the same workouts and same routine training-wise. I guess the biggest thing was just, like you said, logistics - finding an apartment, finding the time to come down here, talking to everyone, meeting new faces.
It was a lot the first couple days, just phone calls and talking to everyone. But I'm extremely happy how it's worked out so far.
How much time was spent in Boston versus Buffalo?
I go back to Boston for the whole thing. I've got a big family - a big extended family. Family is something that's important to me, so I like going home for the summer. It's a good area as a hockey player. There's a lot of guys in the area - good training, good skates. So yeah, it's a good spot.
How often do you train with Jack Eichel?
We work out at the same gym, Mike Boyle's gym. He's one of the more well-known trainers, I think. He was one of the first guys to do it. So, we worked out there the last two years and skate together a handful of times a week. I've known him, I guess, for probably eight years now. Knowing him makes it easier as well, just having someone to talk to, ask questions. He's the captain, so it's been good.
When did you meet for the first time?
I was probably in prep school and he was really young, because I'm three years older than him. We have the same agent as well, so there's a lot of familiarity there. We're both from the North Shore of Massachusetts, so we grew up pretty much in the same region of the state.
There are stories about his workouts being pretty intense. Are those accurate?
Yeah. I think - as you can see on the ice with the way he skates - he's a freak athlete. His explosive workouts are pretty impressive. I know in our gym, we test 10-yard sprint and vertical jump. He's always at the top of the list.
How many times did you speak with Ralph Krueger during the summer?
I spoke with him a couple times when I got traded and then just over text as camp got closer. He was great. We were kind of coming in, I guess, both from different places so I think that makes things easier. He's trying to get to know everyone, not just get to know me. He was great with me throughout the summer and I think he's done a great job with us so far.
It seems like there's a genuine excitement about him in the locker room. Can you put your finger on what it is that excites people?
I think just his demeanor. He's got a real positive demeanor. You can tell he's an intelligent guy. He's accomplished a lot, not only working in the NHL but I know he has a book and he's worked in soccer as well. You can tell he's an intelligent guy and the way he carries himself and demands attention when he's speaking, I think he's a good leader for us. I think everyone's excited.
Jack said he inspired him to try yoga (on Sportsnet's 31 Thoughts Podcast).
I didn't try any yoga, but even when he spoke at the opening of camp, I know there was a lot of buzz amongst players. He wants to win, and he wants to do it the right way. I think everyone's excited and it's easy to get on board with messages like that.
How much of Buffalo have you been able to experience away from this building?
I've been trying to explore. I went to Niagara Falls. I hadn't been there since I was a little kid at a hockey tournament in Toronto. I think the biggest thing for me is learning the city through restaurants. I don't cook, so I've been trying a lot of places. There's a lot of good food here.
What are your top three so far?
I like Siena, Tempo. I like Italian food so those two are good.
Being on the visiting team we really only went to the Chophouse, so I'm trying to steer clear of there. But I think it's pretty good there. I've been to Mother's, I thought that was a cool spot. I had dinner there with my dad, he came down with me when I moved in. Yeah, I've been just fielding recommendations from the other guys that have been here.
Who's the best Ping-Pong player on the Sabres?
I've only seen one play, and that was Skinner. He's pretty good. We were actually at Dominic Moore's charity event this summer in Toronto. There were a handful of good NHL players, but Skins is definitely up there. Right now, he's my vote.
What's one thing you want the people of Buffalo to know about Jimmy Vesey off the ice?
I'm really an easy-going, quiet guy. I think the way I would describe myself is just a normal kid. There's nothing crazy to me. I play hockey and that's what I've always known to do. But yeah, I'm a quiet guy and I think hopefully they'll see this year that I also take pride in my competitive nature.