So, Paul Geiger, the fans in Buffalo are really interested in Jimmy Vesey. What can you say after playing against him for four years?
“Oh, man,” Geiger said Wednesday with a laugh and shake of his head that registered between amazement in Vesey’s abilities and relief that they’re no longer college foes. “I actually got paired up against him quite a bit these last couple years. He’s a very dynamic player. He can skate. His first three strides are real quick. He sees the ice really well. Good shot. Not much bad to say about the guy. He’s a really good hockey player.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do at the next level. Hopefully, it’s here.”
As the Sabres’ prospects, including Geiger, kicked off development camp in HarborCenter, a potential piece of the future skated in Massachusetts. Though Vesey wasn’t in Buffalo, he was still the talk of the town.
Those who’ve played against him understand why.
“I’ve played against him for two years now, and he’s definitely an impact player,” said Brown University forward and 2014 Sabres draft pick Max Willman. “He’s definitely special, probably most for that knack for the net and his scoring ability. He’s a gifted scorer, and he definitely proved that throughout his college career.”
The numbers put up by Vesey – 56 goals and 104 points in his last 70 games for Harvard – speak volumes. The players who watched him celebrate those points have much more to say.
“He’s definitely a high-end talent,” said St. Lawrence defenseman Nolan Gluchowski. “He was a high-end talent at the college level, and he’ll be a high-end talent at the NHL level.”
Vesey recorded three goals and five points in four games against St. Lawrence the last two seasons. That means Gluchowski fared better than Geiger. Vesey had three goals and six points in four games versus Clarkson.
“He’s everything you look for in a player,” Geiger said. “He’s going to be an exciting player at the next level.”
Geiger and Vesey both started school in 2012, and they immediately became rivals in the Eastern College Athletic Conference. Geiger counted as Vesey scored 11 goals as a freshman, 13 as a sophomore, 32 as a junior and 24 as a senior.
Not surprisingly, it’s Vesey’s offensive awareness that stands out most for Geiger.
“He gets that puck on his stick, those first two strides he’s looking to get to open ice and he’s looking to score goals,” Geiger said. “You take your eye off him for a second, he’s getting away from you and he’s finding the puck and finding the back of the net.”
Sabres prospect and Providence defenseman Anthony Florentino avoided Vesey at the NCAA level, but he’s skated against him in the Massachusetts summer league. Vesey’s team won, 9-3, last month.
“I know it’s a summer league, but they’re all pro and college guys,” Florentino said. “Even out there you just see how talented he is. He just controls the game.
“Everyone notices him.”
That includes folks in Toronto. Vesey’s brother, Nolan, is skating in the Maple Leafs’ development camp. If the Sabres don’t sign Jimmy Vesey by Aug. 15, he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Toronto, which employs Vesey’s father as an amateur scout, would be a suitor.
“Aug. 15 comes around and he’ll make the best decision for himself,” Nolan Vesey told TSN. “A lot of people can assume he’s going here or there or anywhere, but it’s going to come down to what’s the best fit for him and what he thinks is going to be best for his career.”
The Sabres believe they’re best for Vesey’s career. They were scheduled to meet this week. An airline charter company used by Terry Pegula had a plane leave Buffalo on Wednesday night and land at the suburban Boston airport frequented by the Sabres, but the team said it had no information about the flight.
Either way, the sides have five weeks to talk exclusively and can continue their conversations after Aug. 15, if needed. Other players can talk about Vesey much longer.
Willman, who plays on the same summer team as Florentino, says they actually got lucky during their recent loss. Vesey’s well-known teammate, Jack Eichel, missed the game. Willman saw them together a couple of weeks later, and he was impressed by the connection.
“Hopefully,” Willman said, “that’s a little taste of the future.”