It’s been a long, strange, and often difficult trip for former 2003 first-round pick Hugh Jessiman.
When the former 12th overall pick finally played in a couple games for the Florida Panthers in 2011, he was the last player from the first round of the 2003 draft to make his NHL debut, just eight years after being picked by the New York Rangers.
Now he’s with the Ottawa Senators organization trying to make things happen in Binghamton. Thinking back on how his pro career started, he says he’d have done things a little differently.
“When you’re young you’re inexperienced. You live and you learn from your mistakes. It sounds cliché but it’s so true,” Jessiman says. “I don’t blame anybody, I always look in the mirror. But, as a veteran now, I try to be the guy to help out the rookies now. I try to be a good guy for us.”
So far this year with the Binghamton Senators, Jessiman has four goals and four assists in 20 games. The night I saw him was a three-point effort (1g, 2a) in a 6-1 win over Portland.
He says if he had a chance to do his time at Dartmouth all over again, he would’ve thought a bit more about when to go pro.
“I think if I were to do that decision again, I would’ve stayed. I came off an injury and turned pro. I don’t know what the thinking was behind that. Obviously there was a lot of pressure from New York. A lot of pressure. You want to make the organization happy. I think coming off an injury and not giving myself enough time, I think that’s something I would do over.”
That injury held him to just 12 games with one goal and one assist during his junior year at Dartmouth. After that, he decided to turn pro. Was it pressure from the Rangers or from himself that made him jump?
“It was a little bit of both. I think a lot of those guys [in the 2003 draft] left after two years of school. I decided to stay for that third year and really dominate,” Jessiman explains.
“The Parises the Vaneks, they really dominated that second year [of college]. I really wanted to have a year like that and then I go get injured in the fourth game of the year. You’re done. After that, I think at that point it was more pressure from me. So, like I said, it’s no one’s fault. I feel fortunate I got drafted by my home team and now… Here we are.”
He’s still a big guy with a big body, he’s 6’6″ 220 after all, and he hopes that when the lockout ends he’ll get a chance to show he can be a contributor. Now that he’s 28 years-old and with his eighth organization, the time for him to prove himself is right now… If it hasn’t already passed him by.