What a difference a season makes for Nashville Predators prospect Jimmy Vesey, who is currently a junior at Harvard University. From two 10-win seasons in a row to winning their Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Hockey tournament and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, Vesey has helped lead the Harvard Crimson back into glory.
“It’s been a great turnaround this year,” said Vesey. “I think everyone’s goal to start the year was the ECAC championship and the NCAA tournament. We accomplished both of those things this past weekend, but I think we’re still not fully satisfied. We’d like to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. I think we have the talent to do it this year and I’m glad it’s worked out for us.”
As a 2012 third round pick (66th overall) of the Nashville Predators, Vesey has been a part of the organization for close to three years. He’s participated in multiple developments camps for the Predators and has grown and matured as a player. In his first two seasons for Harvard, Vesey played in 58 games scoring 40 points (24G-16A). In the 2014-15 season, the left winger from North Reading, Massachusetts hit the ice in 36 games and put up 57 points (31G-26A), a big improvement. As it is with any humble player, Vesey credits his success to his teammates.
“I think I’m surrounded by a lot of very good players at Harvard,” said Vesey. “This year, we have a top power play unit and I’ve developed a lot of chemistry with my linemates Kyle Criscuolo and Alex Kerfoot. I think we just have one of the most skilled teams in college hockey. Everything is just kind of going right for us in terms of scoring goals, so it’s been a lot of fun.”
Overall, it’s been a huge season of accomplishment for Vesey. Back in July while at Predators development camp, Vesey set a goal for Harvard to make the NCAA Tournament. The Crimson made good on that goal. On March 21, Harvard defeated Colgate 4-2 in the championship game to win the ECAC Hockey tournament and, for the ninth time, the Whitelaw Cup for the first time since 2006. With that, the team secured an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“We talked about it after the game how it’s the first banner that any of us have put in the rink,” said Vesey. “It’s a great accomplishment in itself and, as Coach Donato said, ’20 years from now, you’re going to remember a championship team over any other team.’ It’s good to win the tournament and it’s good to get Harvard going in the right direction. For such a storied program , it’s good to get us back on the map in terms of the national picture.”
In the first round of the tournament, Harvard will be facing a team they aren’t too familiar with in University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks. The other two teams in the South Bend bracket for the first round and quarterfinal are Minnesota State University, Mankato and Rochester Institute of Technology. All teams that Vesey and the Crimson are not familiar with playing.
“We’ve taken the last couple of days off after the weekend and we’re going to get back on track Tuesday with practice,” said Vesey. “I’m sure we’ll be watching video of UNO in the next several days. We really don’t know much about any of the teams, so I think it will be good for us to go to South Bend and make a run at it.”
If Harvard can continue its success through the tournament, Vesey may enter the championship game on April 11th as the winner of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. The award is not just given to the player that is deemed the best college hockey player in the country, but to the player that exhibits skill, character and academic achievement. Vesey’s play, attitude and academics are one of the reasons why he was chosen as a top 10 finalist for the award. Not only is Vesey a finalist for the Hobey Baker, but he was recently named the winner of the Walter Brown Award as the best American-born Division I college hockey player.
“The Hobey Baker is talked about a lot,” said Vesey. “It’s an honor for me to be one of the top 10 finalists. It’s pretty good company with the best college players in the country. Right now, I’m just focused on my team and trying to win a National Championship, because that’s our main goal.”
Once the season ends, whenever that may be, Vesey will have some tough decisions to make. Will he finish his career at Harvard or make the move to go pro within the Nashville organization? Recently, Bob McKenzie of TSN spoke with Predators General Manager David Poile. It is believed that Vesey is NHL-ready, but Poile understands why a player would want to earn his degree at Harvard. Depending on when the Crimson finish their season, Vesey might not be able to join Nashville in time to make an impact with the NHL playoffs beginning April 15th. Providing Harvard goes all the way and Vesey turns pro, he would join the organization just in time for the playoffs. Would the Predators insert a new player for the first round? That’s highly unlikely.
While everything is all speculation to this point, Vesey understands he has an important decision to make, and he will include his family in the decision.
“I’ve got a lot on my plate now with Harvard and the option to go to Nashville,” said Vesey. “I think it’s something that I’m going to sit down with my family to talk about after the season. They know that my main goal is to keep winning hockey games, so beyond that, I hope we can win the National Championship and then I’ll sit down after the season with my family.”
Whenever Jimmy Vesey does decide to turn pro, he’s going to make an impact on the Nashville Predators. With a full cupboard of talent waiting to join the big club, the Predators will also have decisions to make this offseason on who stays and who goes. Either way, a spot is waiting on the wing for Vesey to fill.
Photos courtesy of Harvard Men’s Hockey.