Over at TSN, Bob McKenzie notes that Harvard sniper and Preds draftee Jimmy Vesey — who led the country in goals this year, with 31 in 36 games — is being watched closely by Nashville GM David Poile.
Poile isn’t keeping tabs solely with an eye for the future, however. Some NHL GMs told McKenzie that Vesey is “NHL-ready,” and it sounds like Poile is of the same mind.
“Jimmy is a player we believe we could put in our lineup right now,” Poile said. “And the way we’re playing right now, yes, we could really use him.”
Vesey’s currently ineligible to join the Preds, but that could change on Saturday should Harvard lose its opening-round NCAA tournament game against Nebraska-Omaha. If that happens, the “Vesey Watch” will intensify, especially in Nashville, where the Preds — who have struggled a bit offensively of late — are headed back to the playoffs for the first time in three years.
And three years ago was, ironically enough, when Chris Kreider broke onto the scene.
In 2012, Kreider on passed returning for his final year at Boston College to join the Rangers in time for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Like Vesey, Kreider was considered one of college hockey’s most NHL-ready players and, like Nashville, the Rangers occasionally had issues on offense — under then-head coach John Tortorella, the Blueshirts were known mostly for their lunch bucket approach and shot-blocking ability.
They were also highly keen on adding Kreider, and Kreider showed why in the playoffs. At 20, made his NHL debut in Game 3 of New York’s opening-round series against Ottawa and went on to become a valuable performer, finishing tied with Marian Gaborik for third on the team in goals (with five) while breaking a 59-year-old record by scoring the most playoff goals in NHL history before making his regular-season debut.
So… could Vesey do something similar in Nashville this year?
It’d be an awfully tough act to follow. While he has decent size — 6-foot-1, 195 pounds — Vesey isn’t the physical presence Kreider was (and still is.) What’s more, Vesey might not want to leave one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world.
“It’s Harvard, right? We know that,” Poile explained. “We’ve been in close contact [with Vesey’s parents and family advisor Peter Fish].
“Even [if Harvard’s season were to end this Saturday night with a loss in South Bend] we know that [Vesey turning pro] may not be until next season or next year. He’s a very good player but he also a very smart kid, a good student, so we’ll just take it one day at a time and see what happens.”
This promises to be a really interesting situation to monitor moving forward. If Poile truly believes Vesey could help his club in the playoffs, history suggests he’ll be aggressive in trying to get him on board — this is the same GM, remember, that made the bold move of bringing Alex Radulov over from the KHL with just a handful of games left in the regular season.