Jack Eichel (USA Today Images)
Big news in the hockey world is hard to come by this time of year, and as a result we have all likely had enough of the now-finalized Jimmy Vesey soap opera. Congratulations to the New York Rangers. But what can they expect from the Hobey Baker winner? I’m going to take a look at players previously honored with the award and predict what fantasy owners can expect from the newest Blueshirt going forward. Below are the winners in each of the last 5 years and how they fared with their organizations:
2015: Jack Eichel
Result: Jumped to the NHL, scored 56 points in 81 games in a fantastic rookie season in which he earned Calder consideration. Not at all a realistic comparison to Vesey but it won’t stop some Rangers fans from bringing it up.
2014: Johnny Gaudreau
Result: Jumped to the NHL, tallied 64 points in 80 games and, like Eichel, was nominated for the Calder Trophy. As a winger who can score, there will inevitably be some expectations that Vesey finds the net in a similar fashion as Johnny Hockey has. But the Rangers have themselves a stronger presence in Vesey, not an ultra-talented playmaker/scorer.
These two most recent award winners are setting the bar pretty high for the current center of the hockey universe. But don’t get excited too fast fantasy owners until you finish this list…
2013: Drew Lablanc
Result: Found mild success in the AHL, but not enough to warrant more than 2 career NHL games played or a qualifying offer from the Blackhawks after two years in the organization. Currently a free agent playing in the German League. And this isn’t a case of an undersized talent going misused – unfortunately Lablanc just wasn’t good enough to make the enormous jump to the NHL. The reality is that despite the intense game often seen in the NCAA, its nothing compared to the biggest stage.
2012: Jack Connolly
Result: Never drafted or signed by an NHL organization. Went straight from NCAA to Sweden, where he still puts up decent numbers. Unfortunately for Connolly, this was a case of an undersized talent not receiving consideration due to his stature. Maybe in today’s NHL he would have gotten a shot.
2011: Andy Miele
Result: In 8 pro seasons, he has 15 games in the NHL despite being a reliable AHL scorer. Another case of the player being disadvantaged by his size, however he has earned multiple brief NHL shots and failed to ever hold a spot.
I think I’ve made my point and won’t go further back in too much detail, but here is a number to think on:
Of the last 10 Hobey Baker winners before Vesey, only 3 became NHL regulars. However, all three of them (Eichel, Gaudreau, and Matt Carle) are (or were at one point) very very good NHL players.
The conclusion: Vesey could be a very good NHL player. He has proven that he has the talent to be. But he is by no means a sure bet to hold down a spot for long, let alone be the kind of difference maker that many project him to be. He has earned our optimism, but buyer beware as always.
My prediction: I do believe Vesey will succeed in the NHL, at the very least in a middle-six role. I peg him for around 40 points depending on where he ends up in the Rangers lineup. With some high-volume shooters already established in the lineup, he will have to either lead his own line or rely on his playmaking abilities to achieve the high ceiling given to him in the fantasy world.
As always, thank you for reading and best of luck in your upcoming fantasy drafts!