College free agents are exciting. Some of it is due to the fact that any new prospect choosing to go to your team is always pretty cool; a lot of it is that there’s pretty much nothing going on in the hockey world in the middle of August, so a new free agency period opening is always going to draw interest.
This year’s big fish is Jimmy Vesey. He was drafted by the Nashville Predators, but rather than sign with them, he elected to draw things out until free agency.
Kevin Hayes was in the same boat two seasons ago. While there was some talk of him coming to Calgary – his two Boston College linemates were already drafted by the Flames – he ultimately elected to play in New York, where he has thus far put up just over half a point per game with 81 points through 158 games. Pretty good for a free agent pickup, but hardly anyone’s saviour.
What boat will Vesey fall in?
Vesey vs. Hayes
Vesey’s best season came in his junior year, when he scored 58 points through 37 games; Hayes’ best came as a senior, when he scored 65 in 40. However, it is very much worth noting that Vesey led Harvard in scoring during his final three seasons in Harvard, while Hayes never came close (and only had his “breakout” year once on that line with Gaudreau).
Still, all great seasons, but it appears Vesey was the driver on his team, while Hayes had a superior linemate to work with.
Going a bit broader, Hayes is much bigger – 6’5 and 227 lbs. to Vesey’s 6’1 and 195 lbs. – but Vesey has been the superior offensive talent, with 1.1 points per game (144 points, 128 games) through his college career, compared to Hayes’ 0.9 (132 points in 142 games).
So while Hayes has carved out a pretty solid NHL career for himself thus far, Vesey looks to have greater potential.
Vesey vs. Chiasson
So, this is different. But while the Flames probably aren’t in the running for Vesey, they have picked up a few other bodies here and there at relatively low cost. One of them was Alex Chiasson, swapped for Patrick Sieloff: a player who was falling behind in an increasingly crowded prospective blueline.
Like Vesey, Chiasson played in the NCAA. He only completed three seasons before turning pro.
Vesey had a 1.1 point per game career in school; Chiasson was at 0.9, like Hayes (99 points in 108 games). However, there probably is reason to believe he would have scored more had he stuck around for his senior year; Chiasson’s scoring did steadily increase at Boston University from 19 to 34 to 46 points.
Oh, and like Vesey, Chiasson led his team in scoring in both his sophomore and junior years. However, he didn’t lead with quite as big a gap as Vesey did.
Because Chiasson went pro earlier, there’s a fair amount of speculating here – but based on general trends, at least offensively, their collegiate careers are pretty similar.
Making the NHL
Chiasson’s rookie NHL season saw him score 35 points: 10 fewer than Hayes’, albeit on a worse team (Chiasson was fourth in team scoring that season on a Stars squad that barely made the playoffs; Hayes was seventh on a President’s Trophy-winning Rangers team). He’d since fallen off since he joined the Senators, and only has a 0.3 point per game NHL career at this point in time.
There are a lot of factors that go into that. Your own level of talent, how good the team you ultimately join is, and for Chiasson, the emotional impact following Rich Peverley’s collapse could have played a part in seeing his numbers decline.
The ultimate point here is: Vesey probably isn’t going to be anyone’s saviour. He and Chiasson had comparable numbers coming out of college (though Vesey’s were ultimately stronger); Chiasson, thus far, doesn’t exactly have a ton to show for it. Hayes is putting together a good start to his NHL career, but even then he’s not a guy who’s going to make or break the Rangers (at least not at this point in time).
Vesey could be a nice get, but he’s probably not going to make quite that big of a difference to whichever team he signs with. So in the likely event he signs elsewhere… meh. Any shot a general manager can take at improving his team should be taken, but losing out on an Aug. 15 college free agent isn’t going to hurt anyone.