It was almost a year ago that Hugh Jessiman was called to the podium by Rangers Vice President of Player Development Tom Renney in Nashville's Gaylor Entertainment Center. New York's first round selection in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft had just completed his freshman season at Dartmouth College, a breakout year for the 6-5, 218-pound winger. After posting 23 goals and 24 assists and 48 penalty minutes in 34 games, he was named the ECAC Rookie of the Year. Then came the day he had dreamed about for many years.
This past season, Jessiman's offensive output was a bit lower than in his rookie campaign at Dartmouth (16 goals, 17 assists in 31 games) as opponents keyed on the first rounder most nights, forcing him to focus on other parts of his game and utilize his linemates more effectively. The Rangers have their sights set on a bright future for Jessiman, who often visited Madison Square Garden as a child, growing up a Blueshirt fan in Darien, Connecticut.
newyorkrangers.com recently caught up with Jessiman, who is attending the organization's Development Camp at the MSG Training Center this week.nyr.com: How did your sophomore season go?
HJ: It went pretty well. We didn't do as well as we would have liked, but we had a pretty young team. It was kind of an adjustment year for me because it was different than freshman year when I sort of came onto the scene and an unknown player. Teams didn't know how to prepare against me, but this year teams came in prepared. I still contributed offensively but it sort of gave me a chance to round out the other parts of my game. I wasn't so focused on trying to score two or three goals a game ... that doesn't happen usually ... but I had the chance to work on the defensive aspects of my game and the little things that are going to help me make it to the next level.nyr.com: With the opposition paying more attention to you this past season, what kind of adjustments did you make to your game?
HJ: Well, at first it was tough, but it's something you just have to get used to as a player. I ended up using my linemates a lot more. If you look at the production of my line this year, we put up a lot more points as a group than my line last year. When teams key on me, it gives my teammates more space out there. My linemates were good enough to make the most of that opportunity. (Lee) Stempniak and (Mike) Oullette are both good players and were able to cash in this year (all three linemates finished with a team-leading 16 goals and finished as the top three scorers on the club). We did mix up the lines here and there to spread out the scoring a little bit but for the most part I was playing with those two guys. I just tried to use them a lot more to create plays out there, so they couldn't always key on me the whole time.nyr.com - Looking ahead, where do you see yourself fitting in with the Rangers in the future?
HJ: It's tough to say. Everyday you're working towards that dream (of playing in the NHL). I think the key to it all is to be patient. That's one thing I have learned by watching some other players' careers. I'm just looking to continue my development day by day and try to improve my game. If I can do that, the end result should be pretty good and it will work out for me, whether it's sooner or later.nyr.com - What aspects of your game are you really looking to improve upon this summer?
HJ: One thing I will definitely work on is my conditioning. I didn't feel that it was good enough this past year. I definitely came in not as prepared as I should have been for the amount of ice time that I was going to log. That's one of the areas. Another thing is working on my power. My legs are getting stronger and stronger and I'd like to develop a little more power so that it will benefit me in the games and I can use my body a little bit more.