(Editor’s note: I think this is the last of the guest blogs that I have received. Obviously we are going to be without hockey for a while, so if anybody else wants to volunteer to do a guest blog, this is a good time to do it. Just drop me an email at email@example.com.)
On Feb. 27, 2011, Hugh Jessiman made his NHL debut with the Florida Panthers in a 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils. Jessiman played one more NHL game before being reassigned to the Rochester Americans of the AHL. Jessiman was the last 2003 first-round draft pick to make his NHL debut and is only one of two players to play less than 100 games (Shawn Belle, the 30th overall pick, played only 20 games).
While Jessiman’s NHL experience is only two games, he did remove his name from the list of former Rangers first round draft picks to never have played a game in the NHL. Since 1969 when the NHL Draft took on its current look and emphasis, the Blueshirts have drafted six other players who never played in an NHL game. Of course, this total does not include recent picks Brady Skjei, J.T. Miller and Dylan McIlrath.
In the Rangers defense, they get a mulligan on two players because of tragic circumstances beyond their control. Alexei Cherepanov, the Blueshirts’ first round pick in 2007, saw his life cut tragically short on Oct. 13, 2008 when he died during a KHL game.
In 1997, Stefan Cherneski suffered an eventual career-ending knee injury just 11 games into his pro career while with the Hartford Wolf Pack. Cherneski would attempt a comeback, but only played in 29 AHL games over the next two seasons before accepting an injury settlement.
In 1972, the Rangers draft right winger Al Blanchard with the 10th pick. While he did play 166 AHL games and 31 IHL games, he is the only player selected in that first round to never play in the NHL. George Ferguson (11th), Phil Russell (13th) and John Van Boxmeer (14th) would all go on to play more than 500 NHL games.
In 1990, defenseman Michael Stewart was drafted with the 13th overall pick. Much like Jessiman and Blanchard, Stewart and Edmonton selection Scott Allison (17th) are the only 1990 first round draft picks to never have played in the NHL (although the Islanders Scott Scissons played only two regular season games and one playoff contest). Keith Tkachuk was drafted 19th, Bryan Smolinski 21st, while some guy named Martin Brodeur was selected with the 20th pick.
Unlike Blanchard, Stewart did have an extensive pro hockey career that consisted of 255 AHL games, 263 IHL games, 60 games with the Canadian National Team in 1996-97, and he played 10 seasons in Europe (one in Germany and nine in Austria).
In 1996, the Rangers select another blueliner who would never play in the NHL when they drafted Jeff Brown with the 22nd pick. Brown and Pittsburgh goaltender Craig Hillier (23rd) are the only two first-round picks to never play in the NHL. However, three other picks played fewer than 10 games in the NHL: Washington’s Alexandre Volchkov (fourth) played three games while Tampa Bay’s Mario Larocque (16th) and Edmonton’s Mathieu Descoteaux (19th) play just five games each. Daniel Briere was drafted 24th and defenseman Cory Sarich was the first pick of the second round (27th).
Brown racked up frequent flyer mileage in a pro career that saw him play 72 AHL games, 74 ECHL games, 260 UHL games, 13 games with the Canadian National Team in 1996-97 and 136 games in three years in Great Britain.
That leaves us with my all-time personal favorite as the worst first-round draft pick in New York Rangers history – Jim Malone. The Blueshirts used the 14th overall pick in 1980 to draft Malone, who spent three pro seasons playing with three different teams in three different leagues (AHL-20 games, IHL-40 games and CHL-86 games). Brent Sutter was drafted 17th overall and Barry Pederson went one spot later.
Malone did suffer a knee injury in December, 1982 while playing with the Tulsa Oilers of the CHL, so one does have to wonder if that injury cost him a shot at the NHL.
While he did not play in the NHL, Jim Malone does have many family connections to the NHL. Jim is the younger brother of Greg Malone (704 NHL games) and the uncle of Tampa Bay forward Ryan Malone. Jim’s son Brad made it to The Show, making his NHL debut during the 2011-12 season with the Colorado Avalanche. The 105th pick of the 2007 Draft played nine games and recorded two assists.
Malone is the only first-round pick from the 1980 Draft to never play in the NHL while two other first rounders failed to break 100 games: Hartford’s Fred Arthur (eighth) played 80 games before retiring when he refused a demotion to the minors and Philadelphia’s Mike Stothers (21st) who played 30 games. Stothers did get to the NHL as an assistant coach with the Flyers (2001-02 and 2002-03) and Atlanta Thrashers (2010-11).