Forward 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 farm team. Jessiman posted 3 goals and 1 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."
-- Two AHL netminders pulled off the rare feat of pitching a goalie's version of a perfect game on Nov. 22.
In Cleveland, Manchester rookie goalie Jonathan Bernier
stopped all 27 Monsters shots through regulation and overtime and then denied all five Lake Erie shootout attempts to earn a 1-0 win.
In Syracuse, Crunch goalie Dan LaCosta turned aside all 36 Albany shots through regulation and OT and then stuffed all five River Rats in the shootout for a 1-0 decision. Both LaCosta and Bernier said it was the first time they'd won a game in which they tossed a shutout through overtime and then were perfect in the shootout.
"It was cool to be a part of," LaCosta said.
"It's pretty amazing," Bernier said. "It wasn't perfect, but it was pretty good. You just feel like you are always at the right spot at the right time. You see the play before it happens."
There have now been six games in AHL history in which a goaltender has stopped every shot he faced in regulation, overtime and a shootout. And oddly enough, two other goalies did it on the same day.
"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." -- Hugh Jessiman
On Dec. 3, 2004, Hershey beat Worcester 1-0 behind Tom Lawson
's 35 saves and his 5-for-5 effort in the shootout. And Lowell topped Hartford 1-0 as Brent Krahn
made 30 saves and was an unbelievable 13-for-13 in the shootout.
Russell flexing AHL muscles
-- Syracuse Crunch defenseman Kris Russell
may have been slow to catch on to the NHL game, but he's a quick study of the AHL.
In more ways than one.
Russell, a second-year pro who played in 67 games for the Blue Jackets last year, was sent to Syracuse at the end of October. He struggled with Columbus at the start of this season, producing 1 assist in five games. That raised speculation that the speedy puck-mover might have benefited from an AHL apprenticeship last year instead of an immediate full-time dip into the NHL.
If he did need some AHL time, the required schooling shouldn't last long. After gathering no points in his first four games with Syracuse, he spit out eight in his next 10.
"I think the first couple games you have to adjust to the league," said Russell, 21. "This is a tough league. The first couple of games you come down, you're confused. It's a transition. Lately, it's been a progression. Confidence is a huge thing. It's the reason why you play good."
Regardless of how much he scores, Russell's skating ability and quickness are a show unto themselves. He has a favorite trick where he's holding the puck on the point, with a defender directly in front of him seemingly shutting off any skating lanes.
In a blink, Russell will go around him, as if he has a warp speed button on him. It's like a basketball player beating an opponent with a first step. In Russell's case, the move starts with his rare ability to widen his stride and increase his lateral mobility without losing any of his quickness.
"If you open up your feet, you can go either way," Russell said. "You see them sliding off to one side, you can tail away to the other. Situations like that, their (the defender's) main job is to block the shot. You have to make them think you are shooting the puck so you can freeze them up."
Around the AHL
-- The AHL has announced a few more details of its All Star Classic Jan. 25-26 in Worcester. The fourth group of enshrinees into the league's hall of fame is Jimmy Anderson, Bruce Boudreau
, Les Cunningham
and Louis Pieri. Harry Sinden will be the Hall of Fame honoree and Gerry Cheevers
and Ron Hextall
will serve as honorary captains. ... Syracuse's 2-1 loss to Binghamton on Nov. 23 snapped a 17-game home regular-season winning streak for the Crunch. Syracuse posted a point in 24 straight home regular-season games, which ties an AHL record. ... Binghamton went 218 minutes, 57 seconds without a goal last week before scoring three in less than five minutes in a contest vs. Philadelphia on Nov. 22. ... Hamilton goalie Cedrick Desjardins
earned his first-career AHL shutout turning away all 20 shots he faced in a game against the Houston Aeros on Nov. 23. ... Springfield's Gilbert Brule
and Carl Corazzini
scored five seconds apart during the Falcons' 7-6 win against Norfolk on Nov. 21, tying the AHL record for fastest two goals by one team. ... John Paddock stood behind the visitors' bench at the Broome County Arena for the first time since 1989 on Nov. 22 and guided his Phantoms to a 4-3 overtime win against the Senators. Paddock has coached both the Sens (2002-05) and the Binghamton Rangers (1990-91) during his AHL career. ... Also on Nov. 22, Rob Murray
made his first visit to Springfield's MassMutual Center as a head coach with the Providence Bruins. Murray played eight seasons for the Falcons (1994-2000, 00-01, 02-03), and his No. 23 has been retired by the club. ... Rampage defenseman Logan Stephenson
passed Ryan Jardine
for the all-time franchise games played mark with his 164th on Nov. 23 vs. Worcester. ... Jason Jozsa
scored at 1:20 of overtime on Nov. 23 to lift the Griffins to a 5-4 win at Iowa and become just the fifth defenseman in Grand Rapids history to score an overtime goal. ... Hamilton scored five third-period goals -- three while skating 4-on-4 and two while shorthanded -- in a 7-4 win at Peoria on Nov. 22.