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  • Jimmy Vesey starring in Broadway role

    Post Game

    Jimmy Vesey starring in Broadway role

    Bob Snow November 6, 2016

    C’mon, man. How does one guy get to bask in a pile of pixie dust when mere mortals are lucky to catch a flake?

    In June 2012, the Nashville Predators plucked the North Reading native and incoming Harvard freshman Jimmy Vesey at No. 66 overall in the Entry Draft.

    After four years of turning opponents crimson with his offensive proclivities that included 144 points (80 goals, 64 assists) in 128 games in four seasons with 56 of those lamp-lighters coming in his last 70 games — and 46 points in his last 33 games — the Preds were set to pounce on Vesey with a three-year maximum entry-level contract in March after Vesey played his last college game for Harvard.

    “A lot of it was the degree,” Vesey said Saturday night about staying all four years. “Obviously one of the best schools out there. Not a lot get that opportunity. Everyone [who leaves college early] says they’ll finish but it’s pretty tough to dedicate the time to do it. I wanted to make sure I got it out of the way and we had a good team my senior year and I was the captain. I thought it was in my heart to stay.

    “ECAC’s a pretty good level of hockey and in four years I matured a lot as a player and person.”

    After graduation, however, Vesey had other thoughts about his impending pro career.

    In a rare and no-no move, Vesey sent Nashville packing with nothing to show for their Vesey support. How, is the first question. That’s the easy one. The Crimson player invoked the NHL CBA rule that basically says a drafted NCAA player completing four years can opt for unrestricted free agency after August 1 of that summer. And bargain a contract with any other team.

    Why? is the more challenging. Pick one or more of the likely following: Nashville’s three-year entry amount with a max of about $900,000 per year was less than Vesey’s asking. The total contract contained too few bonuses and incentives to convince Vesey to put barbecue at the top of his diet. Nashville was too far from North Reading and Harvard Yard. Nashville was not a good fit.

    Go for all four as the Preds were fit to be tied after being spurned, shipping Vesey to Buffalo in June for a third round pick in that upcoming Draft. All after a reported final Nashville offer to plug Vesey immediately into its top-six forwards.

    No-go for Buffalo also as Vesey then sent the Sabres packing.

    How tough was life for Jimmy Vesey last spring and summer? In March he finished a stellar NCAA career. In April he was named the Hobey Baker Award winner after finishing as runner-up in 2015 to BU freshman sensation Jack Eichel. In May he walked out of the Yard with one of the most prestigious degrees on the planet. In June, he became one of the most sought-after players in NCAA history.

    After Nashville and Buffalo took swinging strikes, the rumor mill had the Rangers, Bruins, Blackhawks, Devils, Islanders, Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs line up next in the Vesey sweepstakes.

    In August Vesey took his skates to the city that never sleeps when the 23-year-old left wing signed a two-year contract under the NHL’s entry-level agreement. Terms were not disclosed, but bank on a max base salary of $925,000, a signing bonus of $92,500 for each year of the deal and up to $2.85 million annually in performance bonuses.

    That’s a deal with the potential of almost four million per season for a guy yet to take one NHL shift.

    “Smart young man who wants to get better with a real good skill set,” Rangers’ coach Alain Vigneault said postgame about his prized rookie. “And very coachable. So far everything our management and coaching staff told us is what we’re seeing on the ice.”

    And more.

    How have October, and early November fared for Vesey?

    Keep spreading the news – and that dust.

    Eleven games into his rookie year, No. 26 in a Broadway Blueshirt came to TD Garden Saturday night for his second game against his tyke-days team and the first time on Garden ice since last February’s Beanpot.

    “Came here as a kid and watching the Bruins,” he said about coming home against the Bruins. “It was pretty special to be out there as a professional. Saw some of those guys win the Cup in 2011.”

    Vesey was tied for the team lead in goals at six with Rick Nash and Michael Grabner; nine points overall and a plus-5. In the October 26 game at the other Garden, Vesey had a goal and an assist in the Rangers’ 5-2 win over Boston.

    “Just trying to make the most of this opportunity,” Vesey said. “Coaches have trusted me to be put in all kinds of situations – power play and 5-on-5.”

    Down, 1-0 Saturday night, Vesey assisted on Nick Holden’s power-play and tying tally with three minutes left in the first period. A minute later, Derek Stepan’s shorthanded goal put the Rangers up – and off and running in the 5-2 final.

    Saturday night, Vesey’s workload was 14:14 with 19 shifts.

    Still too early, but at nearly a point-per-game average, the Vesey-for-Calder whispers will begin before Thanksgiving.

    “I try to keep to myself and just focus on what I can control,” he said about the pressures of playing under the bright lights of New York. “Off to a good start. Just try to keep riding this forward. Been fortunate that things have gone my way the last half year or so.”

    As for Christmas, c’mon man. The kid’s already gotten a sleigh’s worth of gifts — and dust — this year.

    Heck, even tickets Saturday night was no big deal.

    “I lucked out and just took care of my mom and dad and sister,” Vesey said about November 5. “Everyone else had this date circled.”

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