Jimmy Vesey’s Harvard Crimson lost out in the ECAC Regional Final tonight, officially launching #VeseyWatch2016.

Vesey could now join his draft team, the Nashville Predators, right away by signing an entry-level contract — an opportunity he’s not afforded elsewhere if he goes the free agency route. But speculation has it that is not guaranteed.

Vesey finished up his senior year with eight fewer goals and 12 fewer points in five fewer games compared to his junior season last year, but he still led the ECAC in goals (24) and points (46) this season. At the national level, his numbers rank him fifth in points per game (1.44) and third in goals per game (0.75).

Overall, Vesey finished his collegiate career with an impressive 104 points in his final 69 games over his junior and senior years, 56 of which were goals. A former 2012 third round pick, his numbers were nothing to write home about in his draft+1 and his draft+2 seasons, but he’s exploded offensively since and he has some intriguing qualities — decent size, a powerful skating stride, and a good shot.

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A senior co-captain of the Crimson, Vesey was recently awarded the Walter Brown Award — recognizing the best American-born Division I hockey player in New England — for the second consecutive year, in addition to repeating as the ECAC player of the year and Ivy Hockey player of the year, as well as finishing as a Hobey Baker finalist.

The option of bringing Vesey into the NHL this season is Nashville’s (seemingly sizeable) advantage in the sweepstakes at this stage. By bringing in Vesey right away, the Predators burn up one of two entry-level contract years. In order to sign with the Leafs or any other NHL team, Vesey would have to hold out until he becomes an unrestricted free agent on August 15, pushing his second contract back a year.

Many observers have connected the dots and assumed the Leafs’ hiring of Jimmy Vesey Sr. as a scout last summer was a case of the Leafs buying some loyalties one year out from Jimmy Jr.’s decision time. This is something we’ve seen Mark Hunter pull off in the past in London with the Dave Gagner situation, who was hired as an assistant coach for two years, whereupon his son, Sam Gagner, de-committed from college and joined the Knights. This is not unheard of in the junior hockey world — Michael Nylander is currently coaching Alex Nylander in Mississauga as part of Alex’s decision to cross the pond to the OHL instead of staying in Sweden and signing a contract there.

Jimmy Jr’s brother Nolan Vesey, a former sixth rounder in 2014, is also Leaf property (Nolan experienced a big step back in his sophomore-year numbers on a bad Maine team, so the Leafs will be hoping junior-year breakouts run in the family).

If Vesey is going to sign with the team that drafted him, we should know the decision relatively shortly. The Predators, and Vesey himself, will want to get the 22-year-old into some games right away. The longer that doesn’t happen, the more the Leafs or another NHL team looks like the destination of choice.