Rangers: 2003 draft review

By Brandon LeBourveau

Perhaps the only reward for yet another disappointing Rangers season was a relatively high selection in the first round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Surprisingly, the Rangers managed to resist the temptation of dealing away the 12th overall choice for another player past his prime, not uncommon under current General Manager and now permanent Head Coach Glen Sather. In what was widely considered the deepest draft, in terms of quality depth, in nearly a decade, an early draft pick seemed like a potential pot of gold. However, heading into the weekend festivities, many fans still wondered how Sather would manage to mess this one up.

The annual Entry Draft allows the fans the opportunity to see the light at the end of the tunnel, if only for a few days until reality sets back in. The draft is all there is to look forward to in Rangerland, but that excitement dwindles every time one is reminded of the Rangers recent success, or rather lack thereof, in developing prospects.

Below is a review of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft for the New York Rangers from top to bottom.


Draft-Related Transactions


**Note: These transactions did not all necessarily occur during the draft weekend, but are shown as a reference to how the Rangers accumulated the draft picks that they owned.

  • Rangers acquire a 2nd round selection (50th overall) and a 3rd round selection (75th overall) from the San Jose Sharks in return for New York’s own 2nd round selection (43rd Overall).
  • Rangers acquire a 4th round selection (122nd overall) from the Edmonton Oilers to complete the future considerations of a past transaction, when Mike Richter’s rights were dealt to the Oilers in summer 2002.
  • Rangers acquire a 6th round selection (176th overall) from the Calgary Flames for defenseman Mike Mottau.
  • Rangers acquire a 6th round selection (180th overall) from the Los Angeles Kings for center Derek Armstrong.
  • Rangers trade their own 3rd round selection (81st overall) to the Philadelphia Flyers (Eric Lindros trade).
  • Rangers trade their own 4th round selection (116th overall) to the Florida Panthers (Pavel Bure trade). The Panthers later traded the pick to the Atlanta Thrashers.
  • Rangers trade their own 9th round selection (273rd Overall) to the Pittsburgh Penguins for forward Krzyzstof Oliwa. The Penguins later traded the selection to the Tampa Bay Lightning.


Selections

  • 1st Round (12th Overall): Hugh Jessiman, R/LW, Dartmouth College (ECAC)
  • 2nd Round (50th Overall): Ivan Baranka, D, Slovakia
  • 3rd Round (75th Overall): Ken Roche, C, St. Sebastian’s High School (USHSE)
  • 4th Round (122nd Overall): Corey Potter, D, Michigan State University (CCHA)
  • 5th Round (149th Overall): Nigel Dawes, LW, Kootenay Ice (WHL)
  • 6th Round (176th Overall): Ivan Dornic, C, Slovakia
  • 6th Round (179th Overall): Philippe Furrer, D, Switzerland
  • 6th Round (180th Overall): Chris Holt, G, USA National Under-18
  • 7th Round (209th Overall): Dylan Reese, D, Pittsburgh Forge (NAHL)
  • 8th Round (243rd Overall): Jan Marek, F, Czech Republic


Analysis


1st Round (12th Overall)
Name: Hugh Jessiman
Position: Right/Left Wing
Height: 6’4.5″
Weight: 200 lbs
Shoots: Right
Born: March 28, 1984
Team: Dartmouth College (ECAC)
Rank: #20 NA CSB

General Manager Glen Sather, along with Tom Renney and the rest of the Rangers scouting staff, were ecstatic to see Dartmouth power forward and New York native Hugh Jessiman fall into their laps at 12th overall. It came as a surprise to them, since they had Jessiman ranked as the fourth best player available in the entire draft. Either they overrated Jessiman or they saw something in him that nobody else had seen, at least enough to warrant a ranking at the top with the likes of Eric Staal, Nathan Horton and Marc-Andre Fleury. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now, since there is not much to dislike about either his game or his potential.

Jessiman is excited to be a part of the organization as much as the Rangers are excited to have him. Growing up a half-hour outside New York City in Darien, Connecticut, Jessiman attended the Garden often as an avid fan. “They’ve always been my favorite team,” Jessiman told Hockey’s Future. “My buddies and I grew up going to the Garden…We didn’t have season tickets or anything, but I would go to four or five games a year.” One of the games Jessiman attended as a youngster was the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals Game 6 victory over the New Jersey Devils at the Meadowlands, the one in which Mark Messier guaranteed “We Will Win Tonight” and then went out and scored a hat trick to force a game seven. Despite the Rangers recent struggles, his past trips to Madison Square Garden growing up have left an impression on the 6’5″ 200 lbs winger. “Really, one of the main reasons I love the Rangers is the Gardens and the fans, just the atmosphere and the character that the arena has,” Jessiman explained. “The possibility of that being my home arena in the future is pretty incredible…When I get in there, it’s a beauty, there’s nothing better.”

Jessiman made the jump this past year from Brunswick Prep School in Greenwich, Connecticut to Dartmouth College and excelled as a freshman. He made huge strides and posted impressive totals of 23 goals and 24 assists for 47 points in 34 games, earning ECAC Rookie of the Year honors. His stock rose dramatically over the course of the year and the Rangers fell in love with his game. When asked to describe his game, Jessiman offered these details, “I’d say I’m more of a playmaking power forward. I do like to go to the net, and I love scoring goals. But, I probably consider myself more of a setup man; I can put the puck in the net every so often, but usually I like to be down low, below the hash marks, with the puck, and try to make plays myself…I’m lucky to have some instincts. A lot of the stuff, the passing and the vision, I can’t really work on, it’s just something that I’ve been lucky to have. The other stuff, the skating and the special skills that I try to work on, are stuff that I pick up from other players by watching them play, like the Rangers, and other pros. ” Jessiman also realizes his size is a huge advantage. “I’m lucky to be 6’5″; it helps down low, and all over the ice, just physically and also just for protecting the puck.”

At 19 years old, Jessiman is already a year older than most of the players recently drafted. He believes it won’t be too long before he finds himself in the NHL. “I think, ideally, [I’m] a year or two away,” he said. “It really depends on how much I improve this year. My goal is to be skating in the Garden in a year, or this year. I probably need to improve a little over this year, maybe go back to Dartmouth…For me, getting to the next level, I’m still going to have to improve my speed and get used to the tempo, as well…Ideally, if I improve enough, I’ll talk it over with the organization in a year or so.” When asked if he was overwhelmed by everything that has gone on, he smiled and replied, “It’s pretty overwhelming, yeah. I’m not complaining at all, though. It’s something that I’m definitely appreciative of, being here. Like I said, it’s just a start for me.” Hopefully for the Rangers, it’s the start of something great. Here is a player that wants to play in New York, and not because of the money. Jessiman is very passionate, determined and wants to succeed. He’ll be a fan favorite in no time.


2nd Round (50th Overall)
Name: Ivan Baranka
Position: Defense
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 185 lbs
Shoots: Left
Born: May 19, 1985
Team: Dubnica Jr. (Slovakia)
Rank: #18 EURO CSB

Originally possessing the 43rd overall pick, the Rangers traded down in the draft, swapping with San Jose. The Rangers acquired the 50th overall pick and a 3rd rounder (75th overall) from the Sharks for the 43rd overall selection. With the 50th overall selection, the Rangers used it to draft a strong stay-at-home defenseman from Slovakia, Ivan Baranka. Baranka is very physical and loves to take the body with authority, the type of qualities absent in many of the Rangers current defensive prospects. He also possesses good speed, puckhandling skills and is an above-average passer. Although he won’t blow you away with his offensive abilities, he has shown at times that he can step up and join the rush and make things happen. When asked who he models his game after, Baranka told Hockey’s Future, “I think Chris Pronger, Scott Stevens, Brian Leetch…I am a physical player.”

Baranka will be making the trek to North America this season and will play for the Everett Silvertips in their inaugural season this year. The newest WHL expansion franchise selected Baranka second overall in this year’s CHL Import Draft. The Silvertips are looking for Baranka to provide leadership and stability to a young, inexperienced defensive corps. He’ll be expected to play a ton of minutes and help the team win some games. It will be a great experience for him to get a lot of ice time and get accustomed to North America and the different style of hockey that is played on this side of the pond. The Rangers will be keeping a close eye on Baranka to see how he progresses. There were a few players left on the board who would have made more “sexier” selections, such as Patrick O’Sullivan, but the Rangers’ got good value at 50th overall. Baranka is a few years away from making an impact, but he is confident that he’ll one day make the NHL. “I think three or four years and I will be in NHL. I think I am a hard worker and it’s my dream, so hopefully I’ll do that,” he said.


3rd Round (75th Overall)
Name: Ken Roche
Position: Center
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 185 lbs
Shoots: Left
Born: January 2, 1984
Team: St. Sebastian’s Prep. (USHSE)
Rank: #79 NA CSB

With the 75th overall selection, acquired from the San Jose Sharks earlier in the day, the Rangers took a flyer on Ken Roche, a 5’11” center from St. Sebastian’s Prep School. A teammate of Brian Boyle, selected 26th overall by the Kings, Roche tallied 25 goals and 53 points in 29 games. Despite his small stature, Roche is not afraid to play physical and get his nose dirty. He’s a very good skater and a nifty stick-handler. His hockey sense is above average, as are his shot and his hands. He sees the ice well and is a creative playmaker.

This season Roche will be suiting up as a freshman for the Boston University Terriers. The Rangers see a lot of potential in this kid and plan on letting him develop for four years in college where he hopefully will get bigger, stronger and more physically mature, as well as making improvements in his overall game. It was a risky selection in taking a player from high school but the Rangers see the potential reward well worth the risk. Roche is at least four years away from making an impact but definitely one to keep an eye on the next few years.


4th Round (122nd Overall)
Name: Corey Potter
Position: Defense
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 183 lbs
Shoots: Right
Born: January 5, 1984
Team: Michigan State University (CCHA)
Rank: #90 NA CSB

In the fourth round (122nd overall), the Rangers selected another physical, stay-at-home defenseman in Corey Potter from Michigan State University of the CCHA. A teammate of Rangers draft pick Lee Falardeau, Potter is competitive, gritty and plays with a chip on his shoulder. He can skate and handle the puck well, as well as make the key outlet pass to the forwards. He has three years remaining in college and by that time the Rangers could have a 6’3″ 210 lb defenseman on their hands. Has the potential to be a top five defenseman in the NHL.


5th Round (149th Overall)
Name:Nigel Dawes
Position: Left Wing
Height: 5’8″
Weight: 175 lbs
Shoots: Left
Born: February 9, 1985
Team: Kootenay Ice (WHL)
Rank: #121 NA CSB

In the fifth round (149th overall), the Rangers did something they had not done in two years — selected a player from the CHL. The 5’8″ Dawes is a highly-skilled offensive player who amassed 47 goals, 45 assists and 92 points in 72 games this season with Dan Blackburn’s former team, the Kootenay Ice of the WHL. If Dawes wasfour inches taller, he probably would have been selected in the top three rounds of this year’s draft. While his size has not held him back in junior, the NHL is a big step up. Dawes is a project who will need to bulk up and get stronger to make an impact in the NHL. The Rangers are taking a chance here, hoping his size will not be a factor preventing him from taking his offensive abilities to the NHL.


6th Round (176th Overall)
Name: Ivan Dornic
Position: Center
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 183 lbs
Shoots: Right
Born: April 12, 1985
Team: Bratislava Jr. (Slovakia)
Rank: #56 EURO CSB

Drafted by the Rangers in the sixth round (176th overall), Ivan Dornic is a skilled offensive player who will come over to North America this season and play with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. Portland selected Dornic eighth overall in this year’s CHL Import Draft. He is a character player, has a great attitude and is highly respected by his teammates. He is solid defensively and can chip in at both ends of the ice. Expect him to go through an adjustment period this season with the Winterhawks but he has the potential to be a third line center some day. Needs to get bigger and stronger, something the Rangers will give him ample time and opportunity to accomplish.


6th Round (179th Overall)
Name: Philippe Furrer
Position: Defense
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 187 lbs
Shoots: Left
Born: June 16, 1985
Team: SC Bern (Switzerland
Rank: #47 EURO CSB

Philippe Furrer was selected by the New York Rangers in the sixth round with the 179th overall selection. A native of Swizterland, Furrer played 27 games with SC Bern of the Swiss Elite League this past season, notching one assist and accumulating two penalty minutes. He’s a two-way defenseman who plays aggressive and is a tough competitor. He skates well and likes to keep his game simple. He’s one of those guys who plays it safe and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes on the ice. Although Switzerland has not produced many NHL players in the past, things are looking up for that country. A couple of Swiss players have been drafted in the past few years, Furrer among them. He’ll take some time to develop. Could be a top six defenseman some day.


6th Round (180th Overall)
Name: Chris Holt
Position: Goaltender
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 218 lbs
Catches:Left
Born: June 5, 1985
Team: US U-18 National Team
Rank: #5 NA Goalies CSB

With the 180th overall selection and the Rangers third and final choice of the sixth round, they selected underrated goaltender Chris Holt from the US National Under-18 team. A big goalie who covers a lot of the net and plays his angles well, Holt was ranked the fifth best goaltender in North America by the Central Scouting Bureau heading into the draft. He has a very hybrid style, playing both the butterfly and the stand-up when the situation arises. He has quick reactions and moves well for a big goaltender. He has the potential to make some noise in the future but for now he will be attending the University of Nebraska where he will look to get some quality ice time and face some stiff competition. He has the potential to make some noise in college hockey circles over the next few seasons. One to definitely keep an eye on in the future, although he is four or five years away from making an impact in the NHL.


7th Round (209th Overall)
Name: Dylan Reese
Position: Defense
Height: 5’11
Weight: 195 lbs.
Shoots: Right
Born: August 29, 1984
Team: Pittsburgh Forge (NAHL)
Rank: #192 NA CSB

In the seventh round (209th overall), the Rangers selected under-sized defenseman Dylan Reese from the Pittsburgh Forge of the NAHL. A physical, stay-at-home defenseman, Reese will attend Harvard University this fall to further his development. He’s a project and needs to get bigger and stronger during his time playing for Harvard. He’s four or five years away from making any sort of impact at the professional level. The Rangers will let him play four years of college and then at that point they’ll make a decision on his future with the organization.


8th Round (243rd Overalll)
Name: Jan Marek
Position: Forward
Height: 5’10
Weight: 178 lbs.
Shoots: Right
Born: December 31, 1979
Team: Trinec (Czech Republic)
Rank: Not Ranked

With the 243rd overall selection and the Rangers final pick of the day, they swung for the fence and took overager Jan Marek from the Czech Republic. At 23 years old, Marek is a highly skilled forward who led the Czech Republic Extraleague with 32 goals this past season and finished second in scoring with 62 points in only 51 games. He was not signed this summer so he’s ineligible to play for the Rangers or the Wolf Pack this upcoming season but the Rangers are hoping he can make an impact down the road. Despite Marek’s small frame, the offensive ability is quite evident and it was definitely a worthy selection, especially this late in the draft.


Overall, the Rangers had a pretty successful draft. Hugh Jessiman has the potential to be a stud in the NHL, while Ivan Baranka is also likely to make an impact in the future. Many others, such as Ken Roche and Nigel Dawes, also have the potential to turn some heads down the road. As with every draft, the odds are that only one or two of the players selected will make any sort of impact down the road. While expectations are always high after each draft, the reality is most of these kids will never grace NHL ice, but there’s always a reason to believe.