May 27, 2011

From NEHJ: Prospect Vesey is the complete package

Jimmy Vesey (photo: Dave Arnold Photography)

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of New England Hockey Journal.

Belmont Hill forward Jimmy Vesey is one of the more underrated prospects for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

He is also the son of former Merrimack College scoring sensation and NHL journeyman Jim Vesey (Charlestown, Mass.), who played 15 games for the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins in the late 1980s and early ’90s. The senior Vesey posted two 47-goal seasons in the IHL with the Peoria Rivermen and a 38-goal season in the AHL with the Providence Bruins, so scoring is an established family tradition.

Jimmy Vesey is proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree; he has his father’s height, hands and a natural knack for creating offense. One area that even his dad admits the son has the edge in is with the speed and agility, however. The younger Vesey has a fair first few steps, but good straight-line speed and strong lateral mobility.

“I’m a pretty big guy and I take pride in my skating,” Jimmy Vesey told New England Hockey Journal recently. “I would say that my assets are my skill, hockey IQ and vision on the ice. I would say I’m most effective when the puck is on my stick.”

Young Vesey was raised in North Reading, Mass., but has a great appreciation for his father’s blue-collar roots in Charlestown, inheriting the same kind of work ethic. The youngster has dedicated himself to improving his quickness and overall game, while spending a lot of time in the weight room to fill out his lanky 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame.

“His old man had heavy boots, but he could really put the puck in the net,” said a longtime NHL scout from the New England region. “In Jimmy, I see the same kind of offensive hockey sense and scoring ability, but he’s a better skater at this stage and is actually pretty slippery and elusive out there.”

Vesey scored 28 goals and 49 points in 32 games for Belmont Hill, although exact season totals can’t be confirmed because the team made the decision not to turn in scoresheets after each game. The idea was to play as a team instead of playing for stats, and it’s a concept that worked well for the group. Belmont Hill went 19-11-2, advancing to the large school semifinals of the 2011 NEPSIHA prep tournament before falling to eventual champion Westminster.

“We voted on it as a team,” Vesey said of the idea forwarded by captain Mike McNamara (Chestnut Hill, Mass.). “It worked out pretty well. Obviously, we were disappointed not to achieve our goal of winning a championship, but we had a pretty successful season.”

For the son of a pro player, hockey has always been a part of his life. Although he was not yet born when his dad skated in four games for the hometown Bruins and was just a toddler when Vesey hung up the skates in 1995, he got into the game early in life.

“I’ve always had a love for hockey,” he said. “I started skating at about 4 or 5; my dad got me on the ice as soon as possible. I’ve always been around the rink, and I take pride in being a player from Boston.”

Jimmy grew up a big fan of the Bruins and his first NHL idol was Joe Thornton.

“I was pretty bummed when he got traded to San Jose,” Vesey said. “I’ve always admired the way he plays and to some degree, I try to model my own game after his.”

“Thornton isn’t a bad player for Jimmy to pattern himself after,” the NHL scout said. “He doesn’t quite have Thornton’s size or the elite skill level, but Vesey thinks the game well and has that gift for reading the play and getting to open spaces where he can make a difference. The puck follows him around the ice.”

While one must be careful to make the distinction between pointing out that Vesey tries to pattern his game after the former NHL MVP and Sharks captain and comparing him to the former No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 NHL draft, the offensive hockey sense is what makes Vesey an intriguing sleeper for 2011.

Bound for Harvard University in 2012, Vesey has yet to determine where he will play next season, but signs point to a departure from Belmont Hill to spend a season in junior hockey somewhere. Should this come to pass, it will likely bode well for Vesey’s pre-draft interviews, as NHL clubs look for a continuing development curve for their prospects. Vesey doesn’t have much else to prove at the prep level in New England.

As the NHL draft approaches next month, Vesey keeps a realistic attitude but admits to being hopeful.

“It’s something you dream about — getting drafted by an NHL team,” he said. “I’ve thought about it this season. When Central (Scouting Service) came out with their preliminary list and I was rated a ‘B’ (prospect), I got excited.”

Vesey admitted that there was a stretch of time during the season when perhaps he was thinking about NHL scouts at games a little too much. He talked about it with head coach Ken Martin (Framingham, Mass.), redirected his focus and went on to have his most successful season to date.

Although his Central Scouting Service ranking of 150 on the final list released last month came as a disappointment, others contend that Vesey showed enough to have a legitimate shot at the upcoming draft.

“It’s a little low in my opinion,” one NHL scout for a Western Conference team said of Vesey’s spot on the Central Scouting list. “We’re looking for skill and potential at the next level, and I liked what I saw from him this season. He’s still got some things to work on, but he’s getting there.”

Kirk Luedeke can be reached at kluedeke@hockeyjournal.com