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Jimmy Vesey entered college with a fairly substantial list of accomplishments on the ice. A top-100 recruit, the North Reading, Mass., native was selected in the third round of the NHL draft by the Nashville Predators before stepping foot on campus. After a year in which Vesey won a U-20 World Championship with Team USA and earned Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors for Harvard, it’s fair to say that the freshman has lived up to the lofty expectations.
“Jimmy was great,” senior forward Alex Fallstrom said. “He was really one of the players that stepped up for us during the year. I think he’s got a great career ahead of him, not only at Harvard but beyond that, too.”
Along with classmates Brian Hart and Kyle Criscuolo, Vesey brought some firepower to a fairly anemic offensive attack that struggled to replace the production of first team All-American, and current Tampa Bay Lightning forward, Alex Killorn ’12. Despite missing five games, Vesey tied senior Marshall Everson for the team lead with 11 goals.
“As a freshman, his play and maturity level were way above that of a regular freshman,” Fallstrom said.
Vesey started the season on a hot streak, scoring six goals in the first six games, including a pair of braces in victories against Bentley and Rensselaer, and was a major reason for the Crimson’s 4-2 start and season-high No. 17 national ranking. His early season play earned him ECAC Rookie of the Month honors for November, in a conference that featured eventual Frozen Four finalists Yale and Quinnipiac.
During the winter break, Vesey joined the U.S. National Junior Team at the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia. Vesey tallied three assists in a 9-3 group stage victory over Slovakia, and then scored in the Americans’ 4-0 semifinal upset of tournament-favorite Canada. Team USA went on to win gold over Sweden.
But the rookie went cold as the college season wore on, and so too did Harvard, which went 6-15-2 after the winter break.
“Certainly during the first part of our season he was our go-to producer. I think after he went to the World Juniors and won a gold medal there, he came back a little bit on the tired side,” Donato said. “It’s understandable. He was juggling some injuries toward the end of the season, but all in all, he was able to establish himself as a difference-maker.”
Upon Vesey’s return to Harvard, the Crimson won an overtime upset victory over No. 8 Boston University. But Harvard followed the victory over the Terriers with eight straight losses, and Vesey scored just one goal in 11 February and March games to close out the year.
Still, the rookie enjoyed a series of successes uncommon for a freshman but consistent with his prodigious talent.
“Jimmy’s got some great offensive gifts, and he’s a natural goal scorer,” Donato said. “I think that’s something we hoped and expected, and he’s only going to get better now that he’s had some experience at this level.”
—Staff writer Alexander Koenig can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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