This article was published on oilers.nhl.com. Click here to see the full article by Ashley Docking.
Hard work beats talent, unless talent works hard. That’s a lesson that Tyler Vesel had to learn the hard way at the storied Shattuck St. Mary’s Prep school as a teen.
“I went in as a Freshman, but most people when they go come in at bantam,” Vesel said, “They ended up recruiting me my eighth grade year and I ended up attending the following year.”
|Courtesy: Omaha Athletics|
Growing up 50 miles away, Vesel, the Oilers sixth-round pick in 2014, wasn’t too familiar with the school’s rigorous program. But he learned quickly that there was a legacy to uphold for all those who have the honor of donning the Saints sweater.
“Our teams are always ranked pretty high throughout the nation,” Vesel explained. “There is a lot of pressure to win and be successful, keeping our reputation and getting those high recruits.”
Shattuck St. Mary’s has good reason for their stellar reputation. Some of the notable draft picks to come out of its prep school program include Zack Parise, Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby— who Vesel has always looked up to.
“My favourite player has always been Sidney Crosby,” Vesel said. “He went to the same school, and he’s always been a role model for me.”
The one thing that makes Crosby the best in the game is his work ethic. That’s something you aren’t born with, and it takes time and commitment to develop because natural athleticism will only take you so far.
“Growing up I was always the top player on my team, or top three at least, so I never really had people pushing me in practice,” Vesel said, “I mean that first year (at St. Mary’s) I was definitely not a top player. I had to push. They were pushing me everyday in practice and I grew.”
How much did he grow you ask? Well, the centerman had 31 points in his freshman year.
“It took me a little while to adjust, (to the Shattuck program and schedule),” Vesel said. “The first year I didn’t do so great, but I learned a lot of things.”
The biggest lesson? “Probably work ethic, pushing every single day in practice.”
Then Vesel came into his own (an understatement) by recording 37 goals, 71 assists and 108 points in 54 games during his sophomore campaign.
Vesel admittedly, “did really, really well.”
|Photo by juniorhockey.com
After two more years of prep, where the 5-foot-11 forward averaged 75 points, and one USHL season with the Omaha Lancers (where Vesel was named All-USHL Second Team for finishing second on the Lancers and third in league scoring with 33 goals in 49 games), it was time to anxiously wait to see if his name would be announced at the 2014 draft this past year in Philadelphia.
“I was watching on the TV and my family advisor actually called me, and he said he’d heard my name but didn’t know which team,” Vesel said. “So he said he would call me back when he clarified which team it was. So I started watching the TV pretty closely and I saw it scroll on the bottom— my name and to the Oilers. It was very surreal and crazy to think my name was on the TV. My heart was racing.”
Although not with his parents at the time, he wasn’t alone.
“My little brother and my cousin came out and they were screaming. I had to actually go for a run because I was so excited, just to calm me down.”
Not only did Vesel head out on what was likely his personal best 5K run, the first-year NCAA student didn’t call to tell his parents the news. He waited until they were done with work.
Vesel said, “My parents came home a little later. We celebrated a little bit and we went to dinner. It was all pretty fast I had to leave a couple of days later for development camp.”
Currently the Oilers prospect, who was named the NCHC rookie of the week on November 24, continues his development at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where the 20-year old has three goals and six assists in nine games. He is adjusting to yet another hockey environment that has an atmosphere all it’s own.
“Nothing will be the same as Shattuck,” Vesel said. “It’s all about hockey and it’s the main focus. Coming here (Nebraska-Omaha) this year, we have a very good fanbase and a lot of people that follow us. It’s a good thing to have crowds at our games cheering us on.”
He’s accustomed to pressure, has persevered and now Vesel is primed to do great things in his first NCAA season with the Mavericks.