Two years ago, the Blackhawks saw a top prospect finish four years of college and walk away as a free agent.
Kevin Hayes, Chicago’s first round pick in 2010, waited until mid-August and signed with the New York Rangers. He had a strong senior year at Boston College (following three less-than-stellar college campaigns), and looked for both money and opportunity somewhere other than with the team that drafted him.
This summer, another top college prospect is weighing his options.
Jimmy Vesey was a third round pick (66th overall) by the Nashville Predators 2012. He went to Harvard (smart kid) for four years and had two stellar seasons to close out his collegiate career. Vesey put up 104 points (56 goals, 48 assists) in 70 games over his final two seasons at Harvard. He won the Hobey Baker Memorial Award this spring after posting 24 goals and 22 assists in 33 games, and wore the “C” for Harvard.
Blackhawks prospect Tyler Motte, a fourth round pick in 2013, played three years at Michigan. He was a Hobey Baker finalist as well after putting up 32 goals and 24 assists in 38 games as a junior.
Listed at 6-2 and 210 pounds, the 23-year-old has options, and is being recruited like other free agents.
One of the NHL general managers recruiting him has been Stan Bowman.
Mark Divver at the Providence Journal tweeted on July 6 and July 20 that Bowman was watching Vesey play in a summer league. The Buffalo News has also linked the Blackhawks to Vesey recently; Buffalo has an interest in where Vesey signs after the Sabres traded a third round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft to Nashville for his rights.
The Blackhawks signed a Hobey Baker winning free agent in 2013, but St. Cloud State center Drew LeBlanc lasted only two seasons in Rockford before relocating to Europe.
Last year, the Blackhawks signed another college free agent, Kyle Baun, after three years at Colgate. Baun has played five games with the Hawks over two seasons and posted nine points in 43 injury-plagued games in his first pro season with Rockford last year.
Vesey had five game-winning goals for Harvard last season. He also had six on the power play and one short-handed tally. He was only whistled for three minor penalties over the season as well. Vesey plays a strong all-around game and would fit the Hawks’ system.
A left wing, Vesey would want guarantees that he could step into a top-six role to sign with Chicago soon (opening night). Left wing is something the Blackhawks need, but the Hawks have a few other new players joining the system. Vesey would be in competition with Motte and Nick Schmaltz – both also coming from the college ranks – for a roster spot.