February 27, 2011
The first members of the 2003 Entry Draft's first round to make their debuts were Eric Staal(notes) of the Carolina Hurricanes (No. 2) and Nathan Horton(notes) of the Florida Panthers (No. 3) on Oct. 9 of that year. Marc-Andre Fleury(notes) of the Pittsburgh Penguins (No. 1) soon followed on Oct. 10.
Other names, in what's considered the deepest opening round in draft history, would gradually follow in the next few years: Thomas Vanek(notes), Ryan Suter(notes), Dion Phaneuf(notes), Dustin Brown(notes), Brent Seabrook(notes), Zach Parise(notes), Ryan Getzlaf(notes), Ryan Kesler(notes), Mike Richards(notes), Corey Perry(notes) and 16 others. Even defenseman Shawn Belle(notes), drafted No. 30 by the St. Louis Blues and playing 16 NHL games from 2006-2011, made the show (and played a little with Edmonton this season).
He remained in college for another two seasons before debuting with the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack and the ECHL's Charlotte Checkers in 2005-06. By 2008, he was a member of the Nashville Predators organization. This season, he started with the Chicago Blackhawks' AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, before coming to the Florida Panthers organization in the Michael Frolik trade, having toiled with the Rochester Americans in the AHL ever since.
George Richards of the Miami Herald reports that Jessiman's been recalled and will make his long, long, long, long awaited NHL debut tonight against the New Jersey Devils, becoming the last member of the 2003 draft's first round to do so.
Provided there's no calamity in the pregame skate (this is Hugh Jessiman we're talking about here), you have to feel good for the guy. He hasn't had the easiest go of it, as an ankle injury back in his junior season at Dartmouth may have changed the course of his development. His career highlights have included a memorable nickname ("Huge Specimen") and being commonly mentioned as one of the biggest draft busts of all-time.
Skating out for what could look like an AHL team after their trade deadline sell-off doesn't change any of that. And no, his NHL debut doesn't change the fact the Rangers drafted him ahead of Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Mike Richards and Ryan Kesler. But it would remove his name from being an ignominious hockey trivia question; baby steps, Hugh.
UPDAT: From Richards, here's Hugh after the game:
“It finally hit me. It was almost the perfect day and would have been had we won,'' he said. “It was just a great experience. It was pretty intense.''
Jessiman had no points, skating 12 shifts for 09:31 of ice time.