By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- The biggest talking point in hockey right now involves two places that aren't considered the biggest hockey hotbeds in the country: Harvard University and Nashville, Tenn.
The story stems from Harvard senior captain Jimmy Vesey unexpectedly spurning the Predators, the team that drafted him with the 66th overall pick in the 2012 draft, and opting instead to become a free agent this summer.
The news didn't come as a complete shock to many, though it certainly caught Nashville GM David Poile off guard.
"We told him [prior to the trade deadline] if he was going to sign with us, we were going to keep a position available for him, and he told us that he was going to sign with us," Poile told the media Monday night. "Up until a week ago Wednesday, I thought for sure we were going to sign Jimmy Vesey, so this is a shocker."
So, with Vesey seemingly choosing to go the route of free agency, the next logical step is to question where exactly he's leaning toward.
And according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, it's either going to be Toronto or Boston.
The appeal for each landing spot is easy to see. Though the Maple Leafs have been basement dwellers in recent year, the team hired Vesey's father as a scout and drafted his brother, Nolan, in 2014.
And the Bruins remain the hometown team of Vesey, who was born in Charlestown and grew up in North Reading.
Last month in a Players' Tribune article, Vesey shared how he and his father used to imagine him getting drafted by the Bruins:
I can remember waking up for 5 a.m. mite hockey games with my dad when the sun wasn't even up yet. If I said I was tired, he'd say, "C'mon, Jimmy, someday this is all gonna be worth it." Then on the way home we would pretend to announce my name as the first overall pick in my draft year. Those days were the best; I still remember that stuff like it was yesterday.…
With the first pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft … the Boston Bruins are proud to select … from North Reading, Mass. … Jimmy Vesey.
On Tuesday, Friedman laid out another reason why Boston has a fighting chance at signing the Harvard star.
"Boston's biggest draw in the hunt for Vesey may be his friendship with draftee Matt Grzelcyk," Friedman wrote. "A defenseman and captain at Boston University, Grzelcyk was taken 85th overall in 2012, almost 100 spots higher than his Central Scouting ranking. It's believed he is loyal to the Bruins for taking that leap, but, like Vesey, he can also be a free agent Aug. 15. If they want to do it, there is a clear road to playing together — at home."
Vesey and Grzelcyk skated together as kids in Charlestown and as teens at Belmont Hill, and they've remained friends throughout their lives.
"We talked about enjoying it. We both weren't really sure where we were going to go [in the draft], so we were trying to enjoy it as much as we could," Grzelcyk told ESPN after the 2012 draft. "Getting to hear each other's name called was a great experience."
There's also the fact that Bruins GM Don Sweeney is a Harvard alum himself, which could always play a factor.
Vesey's coming off two excellent years to finish his Harvard career. He registered 58 points (32-26-58) in 37 games during his junior season, earning him the honor of being a Hobey Baker finalist. (The award was won by fellow Massachusetts native Jack Eichel.) He followed it up with 46 points (24-22-46) in 33 games this year as a senior, again landing in the top 10 of Hobey Baker candidates.
"Beyond hockey, staying for my senior year has given me the opportunity to graduate from Harvard," Vesey wrote on the Players' Tribune. "One of the things I'm most proud about is that I'm from Boston. I come from a long line of blue-collar Bostonians .… City people — that's who we are. Not many people in my family have had the chance to go to college, so I like to think that when I get my Harvard degree this spring, it'll be a testament to all of their hard work, because I definitely know I didn't get here by myself."
Though Vesey remains quiet himself at this time, his words last month show the hometown ties are something that weigh heavily on his mind.
UPDATE: The Boston Herald's Stephen Harris reported Tuesday night that Vesey will sign with the Bruins, "according to an extremely well-placed source within the Boston-area college hockey community."
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