It’s taken eight years but after today, we can finally say that everyone taken in the first round of the 2003 NHL draft have played in the NHL. George Richards from On Frozen Pond reports this afternoon, the Florida Panthers have recalled former 12th overall selection of the New York Rangers Hugh Jessiman to play tonight.
Jessiman is the last player from the first round of the 2003 NHL draft to play in the NHL. It’s the first draft since the 1983 draft to have each of the players taken in the first round to all play in the NHL. Jessiman, however, comes with an unfortunate distinction. Being a New York City kid drafted by the New York Rangers, he was put on a pedestal almost immediately by the Rangers. The “local boy makes good” story is sometimes too good to resist.
Instead, Jessiman struggled mightily after leaving Dartmouth College two and a half seasons into playing there. He went to the Rangers farm teams in the ECHL and AHL and stayed there for good before being moved to the Predators in a minor league deal. Jessiman then signed with Chicago in the off-season and was involved in the trade that sent Michal Frolik from Florida to Chicago. Now, he finally gets to suit up in an NHL game.
Being the last first round pick to play from that 2003 draft shouldn’t be much of an insult as that draft was loaded with tremendous talent. Marc-Andre Fleury was the top pick and was followed by the likes of Nathan Horton, Jeff Carter, Dion Phaneuf, Thomas Vanek, Ryan Suter, and Eric Staal. All of those guys were taken before Jessiman at 12th overall. Of course, it’s who was taken after him that gets Rangers fans to throw a fit.
Kings captain Dustin Brown was taken with the 13th pick. Chicago’s Brent Seabrook went with the next choice. Zach Parise went five picks after Jessiman to the Devils. Ryan Getzlaf went 19th overall to Anaheim and the Ducks got Corey Perry 28th overall as well. Ryan Kesler went 23rd overall to Vancouver. Think of where the Rangers might be with any of those players and you can understand why Rangers fans might be a bit upset with GM Glen Sather still to this day for going for the good story pick in Jessiman. We won’t even get into how Loui Eriksson and Shea Weber went in the second round of that draft.
Making things a bit more awkward for Jessiman is that he’s the last of three Dartmouth College players taken in that 2003 draft to make it to the NHL even in spite of being taken in the first round. Lee Stempniak currently of the Coyotes went in the fifth round 148th overall to St. Louis while Vancouver’s Tanner Glass went 265th overall in the ninth round to Florida. That’s not taking into account other Dartmouth players who have also gotten the call ahead of Jessiman since then in Pittsburgh’s Ben Lovejoy and Nick Johnson, Colorado’s David Jones and T.J. Galiardi, and Montreal’s J.T. Wyman. Even Atlanta’s Grant Lewis has played in one NHL game before Jessiman.
All that aside, it’s been a long time coming for the once highly touted prospect and while he’s not highly touted anymore and a long time removed from his finest days as a member of the Dartmouth Big Green, it’s a bit of a credit to him for staying with it so long to end up in a situation with the Panthers where they’ve got such a need for forward help they can call on him to try and help out. Let the jokes end now about Jessiman, today is his day.