NEWARK, NJ – In the second episode of the Amazon Prime Original docuseries, “All or Nothing: Toronto Maple Leafs,” fans are whisked away to Jimmy Vesey’s short tenure in 2021.
“We brought you here with a good opportunity to want you to make a difference,” coach Sheldon Keefe told Vesey after dismissing him for a head-to-head. “I want to be sure you know, it’s been very vanilla.”
At the end of the 46-minute episode, Vesey heads west after being recovered on waivers by the Canucks.
“Yeah, it was tough. It was my first shot mid-season. I had been traded before but it was summer so it was a little stressful,” said Vesey. “I guess overall last year felt pretty long to me. I had been to Toronto two months before the season and then obviously halfway through I ended up in Vancouver and we had COVID closed while I was there. The season So it’s a tough year, sometimes stressful … a little chaotic but happy to be here. “
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This is New Jersey. Standing in front of reporters in the bowels of the Prudential Center on media day, the 28-year-old sports a red hoodie with “Devils Hockey” stamped on the front and his (new) No.16 in the corner. But a future in the Garden State is not guaranteed for the 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner. He’s on a power take-off.
“He has to reinvent himself. He has to be really good defensively. He has to be a good special teams player. He has to bring physicality, which I think he can. I have seen Jimmy play with a lot of bite and that ‘is an area that I think can help our club, ”noted Devils coach Lindy Ruff, who was a staff assistant to Alain Vigneault in New York City during Vesey’s second and junior seasons in the NHL.
“He knows he desperately wants to get a job on this team and he has to get a job. I’ll just say that. There are other young guys who are going to push him for that same position and I think that in inside he realizes it’s a chance he can’t waste. “
General manager Tom Fitzgerald said that while Vesey had come to push the rest of the group and create competition, there was “an opportunity here to be part of the team” – adding that he was not. not “Whistle ‘Dixie’ here,” to show he was serious.
Things look promising so far for Vesey, who in the first intra-team scrum of the preseason scored three points. It’s reminiscent of a guy who was a much sought-after prospect after his four years at Harvard was over. It is also reminiscent of a winger who scored 90 points (50 goals, 40 assists) in three seasons – 35 in 2018-19, where he “thought I kind of got it” – across the river Hudson with the Rangers.
However, the past two years have been anything but ideal: 30 points in 114 games between the Sabers, the Maple Leafs and, his last stop, the Canucks.
“I was picked up by them on waivers and thought it was a great opportunity. I had four games and thought I had played well and then the COVID shutdown kind of chickened out everyone, ”Vesey recalled. On March 31, the Canucks-Flames game was suspended less than an hour after the puck was awarded, marking the start of Vancouver’s nearly month-long suspension of the season.
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That just added another tough layer to an already tough 2021 for the Massachusetts native. He was in Canada two months before the start of the season and stayed until the end of the extended campaign – with no possibility of visiting family or friends based in the United States.
“It went on for a long year,” he said. “I think there was some anxiety that came with that as well, especially on the stretch in Vancouver. The shutdown was pretty brutal to be honest. I never had COVID at that time but I didn’t. was still not allowed to leave other than to swab.
“I felt like the walls were closing in on me at points and we ended up playing, I think, 19 games in 30 or 31 days, so that was a lot to deal with. I’m stronger after going through that. . “
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A stronger, more focused Vesey is certainly someone who could help a young Devils team aiming for their first playoff appearance since 2018, and just their second since a Stanley Cup final berth in 2012. If he signs a new contract, he should do it. play a last six role on the wing while also seeing shorthanded features. In 30 games with the Leafs, he placed 10th in shorthanded total ice time (25:31) and was second with the Canucks in powerplay goals against by 60 minutes (3.81) despite have only played 20 games and 31:31 of SH TOI.
In the Devils’ preseason game against the Capitals on Wednesday, Vesey skated on the wing with captain Nico Hischier in the center and 2019 Draft pick Graeme Clarke on the right wing. He was on the ice for a even-matched power-play goal in his 15:46 – 2:44 of that as the team was shorthanded.
“You have to find something that’s going to be your thing,” Keefe told Vesey, who was struggling to find his game, and maybe some confidence, with Toronto.
Well maybe this is the thing that will help Vesey land his next NHL contract.