NHL.com: Fresh start a blessing for Jessiman

by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com

Lindsay Kramer, the AHL correspondent for NHL.com, profiles an up-and-coming player each Monday during the season, and his AHL notebook appears each Thursday on NHL.com.

jessiman-head_200.jpgForward Hugh Jessiman wasn’t sure that he wanted a trade out of the New York Rangers organization.

Then he got the can’t-miss sign.

It came in the form of a phone call in late October. Two, actually.

Jessiman, 24, was taking a conference call with his agent and father. They were urging him to ask for a swap after his career was clearly stalling with the Hartford Wolf Pack. Jessiman wasn’t sure because he didn’t want to be known as a troublemaker.

Just then, the other line beeped in. It was Hartford coach Ken Gernander calling to tell Jessiman he had been traded to the Nashville organization. Problem solved.

"It was just a weird release of emotions," Jessiman said. "Since I didn’t ask for the trade, that stress level wasn’t there. It was like a monkey off my back."

And like a gift falling into the lap of Milwaukee, Nashville’s AHL affiliate. Jessiman posted three goals and one assist in his first nine games there after going pointless in six games in Hartford.

The trade created a crash ending for what had seemed like a storybook journey. The 6-foot-6 Jessiman grew up in Darien, Conn., as a huge Rangers fan. New York took him out of Dartmouth with the No. 12 pick in the 2003 draft.

But Jessiman struggled during his first two pro years, spending time in both Hartford and Charlotte of the ECHL. He admits now that part of the problem was that he never really played the type of game that suited his size.

"It was a long roller-coaster ride there. I tried to do my best," he said. "But not having a good first year, I don’t know. You have to understand you can’t really blame anyone else for where you are. Realizing that helped me."

The real puzzler of the Jessiman-Rangers relationship was that he seemed to finally fill the mold of power forward last season, contributing 18 goals and 24 assists for Hartford. But New York was unimpressed by what it saw in training camp, and Jessiman became a healthy scratch in Hartford.

"That was a turning point for me. I said, I don’t think I’ve played myself out of the lineup. I believed in myself," he said. "It was very frustrating there in Hartford. I thought I took a couple steps in the right direction in my development."

Jessiman will have to continue those strides on the Admirals. He’s already teased with the type of brilliance that the Rangers saw when they made him a top pick. On Nov. 16, he scored what could stand as the AHL goal of the season when he fell to his knees while facing away from the Griffins net and still managed to send a no-look a sliding shot into the far side for the eventual game-winner.

"A lot of times players are fortunate to get a fresh start. I certainly feel that way," he said. "Right away, you understand this is a great organization. With the expectations (in New York), it was tough to be in Hartford for my fourth year and not seem to be progressing. I felt (under the radar) the first day I got here. I’m on my own little journey here."