The 2003 NHL Entry Draft is notable for producing many players who were stars in the mid-career, 2010s, and even today. Marc-Andre Fleury, Eric Staal, Dustin Brown, Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Barnes, Mike Richards, Patrice Bergeron and many others have come out of it.
While there are 11 players still active in the NHL 20 years later, and countless others who had long careers and are now retired, the following five are not included in either category.
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Whether they’ve found fleeting big-league success or no success at all, here are a handful of players from the draft that you might not have thought about in years.
Hugh Jesseman: New York Rangers, 12th overall
The first 11 picks in the draft have all played at least 398 NHL games and five have played more than 1,000 (four of those five are still counting between Fleury, Staal, Ryan Suter and Jeff Carter.)
Hugh Jesseman played two.
The right-winger was a local boy, born in the Big Apple, and drafted out of Dartmouth College in the ECAC (one of the six conferences in NCAA Division I ice hockey.) Nicknamed “The Giant Specimen” for his 6-foot. 6, 230-pound frame, he described himself as a “playmaking power forward” like Joe Thornton and was described by Rangers VP of players Tom Rennie as “not an easy guy to play against in any shape or form.” development. (From ‘Hugh’s Da Man for Rangers’,’ The New York PostJune 22, 2003.)
The “huge sample” turned out to be a huge disappointment, and one of the worst first round selections in Rangers history.
Jesseman spent his first two seasons splitting time between the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL and the Charlotte Checkers of the ECHL. His third pro season, spent entirely with the Wolfpack, was his most successful with 42 points in 71 games, but a call-up eluded him.
Rangers in October 2008 Jesseman was traded to the Nashville Predators For future consideration. He spent two seasons playing for the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals – his best output of 42 points in 2009-10 – before signing as a free agent with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010.
He began the 2010–11 season with the Rockford IceHogs but was traded to the Florida Panthers organization in February 2011. It was for the Panthers He made an NHL debut that was a decade in the makingLogging 9:31 ice time on Feb 27. 2011.
A few days later, on March 1, 2011, he played in his second NHL game, logging 5:11 against Troy Boddy of the Carolina Hurricanes.
That second NHL game was Jesseman’s last. He then spent several seasons in the AHL, working with the Rochester Americans, Lake Erie Monsters, Abbotsford Heat and Binghamton Senators. He played briefly in the KHL and Erste Bank Eishockey Liga before calling it quits after 2014–15.
Jeff Tambellini: Los Angeles Kings, 27th overall
Jeff Tambellini’s NHL career was more successful than Jesseman’s, as Tambellini played in 242-career games and recorded 63 points. Like many bubble NHLers, though, he bounced up and down and eventually moved to Europe.
Tambellini finished his first season at the University of Michigan before being drafted, recording 45 points in 43 games. In 2005-06, after two more seasons at Michigan, he turned pro and had a promising rookie season. He made his NHL debut, playing four games in November and December and scoring 56 points in 56 games for the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs.
On March 6, the Kings traded him to the New York Islanders and he played 21 games, recording four points and scoring his first NHL goal on March 14 in a 6–1 win over Martin. Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils.
Tambellini’s offensive talent was obvious — prior to his three seasons at the University of Michigan, he played for the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs and had 168 points in 88 games — but that talent shined far more in the AHL than in the NHL.
He spent his next four seasons with the Islanders organization, and they were up and down, figuratively and literally. His best NHL season was 2008–09, in which he played a career-high 65 games and had 15 points, and his best AHL season was the year before, when he had 76 points in 57 games for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
In 2009–10, he stayed in the NHL all year but was often a healthy scratch and played in only 36 games (but He recorded his first career hat-trick with his father, Steve Tambellini in attendance.) In 2010, Tambellini signed as a free agent with the Vancouver Canucks and spent the 2010–11 season there. before going on to play in Switzerland and Sweden 2011-12 to 2014-15.
Tambellini returned to North America for the 2015–16 season, signing a one-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He proved he still has offensive muscles to flex, recording 49 points in 65 games for the Syracuse Crunch, but didn’t get into an NHL game. He then returned to Sweden to play one more season before retiring.
Sean Belle: St. Louis Blues, 30th overall
The St. Louis Blues drafted Belle with the final pick of the first round, but he never played a game for the organization.
Belle, a hulking defenseman standing 6-foot-3 and weighing 235 pounds, had already been traded to the Dallas Stars (for goaltender Jason Bacashihua) before turning pro after five seasons with the Tri-City Americans and six WHL seasons overall. .
In his rookie career campaign in 2005–06, he was traded again, this time to the Minnesota Wild. In 2006–07, he spent most of the season with the Houston Arrows of the AHL, but also made his NHL debut, playing in nine games and recording one assist. His 2007-08 was spent entirely with the Aeros.
Belle was traded again in 2008, this time to the Montreal Canadiens. He suited up for two games for the Habs and another 130 games for the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs in two seasons with the organization.
Afterward, Belle had brief stints with his hometown Edmonton Oilers (five games in 2010–11) and the Colorado Avalanche (four games in the same season after being traded for a fourth time).
It was the end of his NHL road as he moved to Germany, then Sweden, then back to Germany before retiring after 2014-15. He has since done some coaching, serving as an assistant coach for the AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders and associate head coach of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology’s hockey program.
Danny Richmond: Carolina Hurricanes, 31st overall
Danny Richmond’s most notable accomplishment was playing for the Hurricanes in the season they won the Stanley Cup.
The defenseman’s first 10 NHL games, which he played after spending two seasons with the AHL’s Lowell Lock Monsters, came in 2005–06. Those games came in November, seven months before the Hurricanes swept the Oilers in seven games and he had just 10 with the organization.
Before the Hurricanes could even lift the cup, Richmond was gone; In January prior to the Cup run, he was dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks and played 10 games with them before the season ended.
In 2006–07, Richmond played another 22 games for the Blackhawks – his career high for NHL games played in a season – but in 2007–08, the organization was just seven games. A dynasty era in the early 2010s And full of talent from top to bottom.
In the summer of 2008, Richmond was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Tim BrentAnd that trade began an AHL tour that saw Richmond play for six teams over four seasons through 2011-12.
He suited up for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, Peoria Rivermen, Rockford IceHogs — again, when he was traded again to the Blackhawks — Toronto Marlies, Hershey Bears and Lake Erie Monsters.
After 2011–12, he extended his career in Europe a bit and was quite productive. He played one season in Finland, then six seasons in Austria for three different teams. In 2014–15, he won a championship with the Mannheim Eagles.
Mike Eisener: Tampa Bay Lightning, 34th overall
Mike Egener is the highest player selected in the 2003 draft to never play an NHL game.
The Tampa Bay Lightning certainly didn’t select the defenseman for his offensive prowess; The Calgary Hitmen blueliner had just 10 points on the season before the draft. However, new Lightning GM Jay Feaster liked Izner’s size, stay-at-home tendencies and not being afraid to mix it up (he had 15 fights in the 2002-03 WHL season.) Thus, Feaster’s first-time selection was a gamble. German product with a mean streak.
Agener recorded 325 penalty minutes in his first two seasons with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons, took several knuckles after turning pro, but contributed little on offense and recorded a combined minus-24 rating. He also had a stint in the ECHL in his second season.
Agener’s third and fourth seasons were more of the same as he racked up plenty of penalty minutes between the AHL and ECHL but not much else. In 2006-07 at Springfield, he was tied for a team-worst plus/minus of -29.
In 2009–10, Egener left the Lightning organization and spent the next two seasons in the ECHL with the Ontario Reigns and Florida Everblades. He then went overseas to play one season in Denmark and then three in Britain with the EIHL’s Coventry Blaze before retiring.
In 2021, Egener Joined the Red Deer Rebels as an assistant coach.
- Ryan Stone: Pittsburgh Penguins, 32nd overall. He was the star center for the Brandon Wheat Kings who had 33 goals and 99 points in the WHL season before being drafted. Played 35 NHL games between the Penguins and Edmonton Oilers, never scoring a goal.
- Konstantin Glazachev: Nashville Predators, 35th overall. The left winger has never left Russia and never played a game in North America. Played in the KHL until 2019-20.
- Corey Urquhart: Montreal Canadiens, 40th overall. The center was a QMJHL star in his final two seasons before being drafted, producing over a point per game in both junior campaigns, but never played an NHL game.
Declan Schroeder is a 27-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist from Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a Diploma in Creative Communication with a major in Journalism from Red River College and a BA in Rhetoric and Communication from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets left town when he was two and the 2.0 version came on the scene when he was 17.