After a lengthy decision process, Dartmouth forward Hugh Jessiman has decided to return to the Big Green for his junior season, passing up the opportunity to sign with the New York Rangers, who selected Jessiman with the 12th pick of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He becomes the second prominent underclassman to turn down the Rangers and remain in school, joining Michigan netminder Al Montoya.
“I felt like our team and myself have a lot of unfinished business to take care of,” Jessiman said, “and I still think that I have a lot to prove at the college level. That was one of the things that stuck out in my mind, and made me feel like it was the right thing to do to go back to school.”
Nicknamed “Huge Specimen,” the 6-foot-5, 215-pound native of Darien, Conn., took the ECAC by storm in his freshman year scoring 47 points (23g, 24a) in 34 games for the Big Green. After collecting Rookie of the Year awards from the Ivy League, the ECAC, and the New England Hockey Writers Association, Jessiman became the highest ECAC draft pick in 20 years when the Rangers grabbed him early in the first round.
With defenses cracking down on Jessiman during his sophomore year, his point production slipped slightly, as Jessiman scored 33 points (16g, 17a) in 34 games. Following Dartmouth’s season ending loss to Colgate in the ECAC consolation game, Jessiman began to ponder his future, and the direction he wanted to take. Jessiman joined many other Rangers prospects, including Montoya and Harvard’s Dylan Reese, at a Development Camp in Calgary last month, before returning home to make his decision.
Jessiman would not have left the cupboard bare in Hanover, though. Dartmouth boasts five other NHL draft picks on its 2004-05 roster, including First Team All-American forward Lee Stempniak, All-ECAC First Team defenseman Grant Lewis and Canadian Junior “A” Player of the Year Nick Johnson. Based on that strong returning talent – as well as the impending eligibility of Boston College transfer Ben Lovejoy – departing Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni told the Albany Times-Union in March that Dartmouth would be “the prohibitive favorite” in the ECAC this season, after advancing to the conference semifinals in three of the last four years.
Dartmouth’s season begins October 30 against Quinnipiac.