Also, Anisimov, Sabres, Wild Surprising During Early Part Of Season


By Brian Monzo
WFAN.com

I can admit that I didn’t buy into the hype of Jimmy Vesey.

When he became a free agent in the summer and there was a “Vesey watch,” I was skeptical. After being drafted a few years back and never signing a contract, Vesey, by rule, was able to sign anywhere in the league. He had a few very good college hockey seasons and became a hot commodity. Still, I didn’t want to buy in.

He signed with the New York Rangers after days of rumors.

Boy, I have been wrong. Vesey has stepped in after a great training camp and preseason and has emerged as a top-six forward for the highest-scoring team in the NHL. Vesey has six goals in 10 games, and could easily have 12 goals just based on his scoring chances. He has an eye for where to be on the ice and has no problem getting physical with bigger players.

MORE: Hartnett: Rangers’ Vesey Thriving, With A Little Help From His Friends

It’s too early to say just how good he is — and how great he might become — but the question of him being able to transition from college to the NHL has been answered with a loud “yes.”

As for the rest of the goings-on around the NHL …

— It’s funny to look at the NHL scoring leaders and see Artem Anisimov on the top. Anisimov was a part of the trade that sent Rick Nash to the Rangers, and eventually he was traded from the Blue Jackets to the Blackhawks. Anisimov has always been a decent enough player, somewhere in the 15 to 18 goal range, with good hockey sense. A few weeks into the NHL season, he leads the league in goals and points. I don’t think it’s going to last, but who knows? Maybe the solid offensive potential he showed in the AHL has finally found its way into the NHL.

— The Buffalo Sabres have been bad for a few years, and I think that trend will continue this season. One of the main reasons was the bad injury to star Jack Eichel at practice just before the start of the season. I didn’t love the Kyle Okposo offseason signing, strictly based on money. However, early in the year, despite scoring woes, the Sabres find themselves over .500 and playing good hockey. Okposo has had a decent start, and if they can keep their head above water before the return of Eichel, maybe they can sneak into the playoffs. Buffalo is a great hockey town, and it would be nice to see the Sabres do some good things.

— The Minnesota Wild are playing much better than I anticipated. A lot of it has to do with goaltender Devan Dubnyk and his goals-against average of 1.50. However, the addition of veteran Eric Staal has a lot to do with it as well. Staal is a natural leader, has played a ton of hockey and is still just 32 years of age. He also has eight points in 10 games, and if he can find any sense of what he was in his prime in Carolina, the Wild will be a force this season.

This week’s Top 5:

1. Steven Stamkos – After the tough injury that kept him out for the latter part of last season, the rested superstar looks like he is back to being the best pure scorer in the NHL.

2. Connor McDavid – I am confident in saying the Oilers are back to being a real NHL team. McDavid, the 19-year-old captain, is the main reason why.

3. Patrick Kane – Get used to it. He will be here all season long.

4. Ryan McDonagh – Healthy and rested, the Rangers captain is playing the best offensive hockey of his career.

5. Shea Weber – I didn’t know what to make of it when the Habs traded P.K. Subban to Nashville for Weber, but Montreal hasn’t lost a game in regulation, and Weber is the main reason why.

Read more columns by Brian and follow him on Twitter at @BMonzoWFAN