I have finally amassed the courage to write about the most enigmatic Rangers prospect, Hugh Jessiman, dubbed "Huge Specimen" by some Ranger fans for his 6'6" 225 pound frame. From that fateful day in June of 2003, Jessiman has been a mystery. After registering 23 goals and 24 assists for 47 points for Dartmouth as a freshman, the Rangers decided to take a huge gamble, no pun intended, at 12th overall in the 2003 NHL Draft. In a draft that saw the likes of Parise, Getzlaf, Richards, Brown, Seabrook, Burns, and Perry be taken after Jessiman, this pick flat out hurts the Ranger fan in me. But I digress.
Jessiman played two more seasons at Dartmouth, in which he only managed 35 points in 46 games in two years despite an injury in his junior year of college. Hugh then decided to attempt to turn pro at age 20 in hopes of making the Rangers big club, but he would have no such luck. Things got steadily worse for Hugh, as he registered a lukewarm 19 points in 46 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack in the 2005-2006 season. As a result, he got sent down to the ECHL for further work on his game. The 2006-2007 season was no different, as he registered a disappointing 13 points in 49 games with Hartford, resulting in another demotion to the ECHL. At this point, most Ranger fans have written Hugh off as a huge bust. This previous season, however, a new hope was found as Hugh was able to stick with Hartford all season and register 18 goals and 24 assists for 42 points in 71 games, most of the time playing top 6 minutes for the team. In addition to this, Hugh also earned 154 penalty minutes, proving that he is also a force to be respected physcially as well.
In this offseason, Hugh accepted the Rangers' one year qualifying offer, meaning he has at least one more year to prove his worth to the Rangers coaching staff. In my opinion, this is the "make or break" year for Hugh. If he fails to show any type of improvement this season, he most likely will not be re-signed by the Rangers organization. Although many if not most Ranger fans have already written off Hugh as a bust, I have not personally given up on him yet. A power forward type of player that Hugh is needs a great deal of development, and usually do not crack the NHL club until their mid-twenties. Right now, Jessiman is 24, giving him at least 2 more years in my book to prove himself. Think about this Ranger fans; Todd Bertuzzi did not have a 50 point until he was 25 years old.
Despite this, Jessiman still has a lot to work on before he can have a shot with the New York Rangers. Although he has a lot of raw talent and still oozes potential, his skating and hockey sense still leave a lot to be desired. Speed is key in the "new" NHL, and if Hugh can find a way to keep up with the pace of the game on a consistent basis, I don't think an NHL call-up is out of the question in the near future.