After selecting Samuel Honzek in the first round, the Flames went right back to the Vancouver Giants to select his teammate Jaden Lipinski in the fourth round. The Arizona-born prospect had a huge coming-out party this season on the West Coast and looks to only get better as he gets older.
Who is Jaden Lipinski
Born in Scottsdale, Lipinski comes from an athletic family that prioritized his hockey development. After spending his pre-junior time between the Anaheim Jr. Ducks and Phoenix Jr. Coyotes programs, Lipinski was scouted by the Giants and signed to join them in 2021-22. It is a huge jump from American minor hockey to the WHL, so his first season was a lot of learning. He finished with 17 points and a brutal -30 in 68 games. This season, he took an enormous step forward, putting up 51 points in 66 games and pushing his way into the draft conversation, getting selected by the Flames in the fourth round.
Lipinski’s on-ice production
Taking a look at Lipinski’s numbers below, the growth year-over-year is enormous.
|Year||Draft Relative||League||Team||GP||G||A||P||Playoff GP||Playoff G||Playoff |
Vancouver finished eighth and seventh respectively in the last two seasons, so these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. That being said, Lipinski finished third on his team in points, behind just Honzek and overager Ty Thorpe. Vancouver was demolished in the first round of the playoffs by the Kamloops Blazers, where the Giants put up just five goals in the four-game sweep, four of which came in the final game. Lipinski had no playoff points but did go 12-for-27 in the faceoff dot in the final game, good for second in the game.
Among U19 skaters, Lipinski finished 36th in scoring in the WHL. This is a huge improvement from finishing among the bottom of the league in terms of plus/minus last season. It is excellent to see how he has transitioned into a very good two-way centre or winger at the WHL level.
There is a lot to like about Lipinski and his game. Here’s what really stands out:
Ability to use his size
The thing about larger players in junior is that they often get away with a lot simply because of their size. What I really like about Lipinski is that he does a lot of the work down low that smaller guys have to do, but is able to do it more effectively with his size. The forward is really good along the wall and particularly in corners, able to either retrieve the puck or keep it himself against other guys in the tight areas. The Flames have always valued being able to win one-on-one battles, and Lipinski excels in this area.
Lipinski is also known as a hard worker, not taking shifts off in game, and someone who constantly wants to get better. Given that he was undrafted into the WHL and coming from a non-traditional hockey background in Arizona, he knows he has to work harder than those around him. He is really good at using the tools that he has to stand out on the ice.
Read of the game
Lipinski reads the game at a really high level, and that has allowed him to have the success that he did this season. He has been a very versatile piece for the Giants this season, able to play reliably at both ends of the ice. He also played both powerplay and penalty kill for the Giants this season, which is not typically something you see from later-round picks.
When you watch him, you see how he tends to find himself in the right spot at the right time. He knows where to be on the ice, and has the ability to finish. Take a look at this goal from this season against Kelowna in which he just walks right in and beats the goalie clean:
On top of having the shot, he also has the speed and the hands to complement it. This goal in particular was beautiful and just shows how much talent is in this prospect:
Whether you treat this as a positive or a negative, Lipinski is very much a work in progress. He did not get as many reps as some of the other players his age and has been working extra hard to earn his chance. That being said, the potential is very much there for him. He took an enormous stride forward this season, and you could just see how his confidence grew month by month.
A lot of scouts talk about him as a low-ceiling, high-floor prospect, with a lot of the toolkit to be a depth NHLer in time but not much more than that. On the one hand, to get a depth NHLer in the fourth round is a great thing, but I think his progression could be even higher. Lipinski has taken such a huge jump up this past year that he reminds me a bit of a Lucas Ciona or Parker Bell who could just jump off the page this coming year. The sky really is the limit for Lipinski, and the warts in his game are eminently fixable.
Lipinski’s areas of improvement
Of course, there are always areas of improvement.
Lipinski has good pace and speed when he needs it, but can be a bit pedantic with his skating. He needs to work on being more explosive and pushing harder on his feet. This is particularly noticeable in the offensive zone and can limit his ability to make the plays that he wants to make. That being said, it’s not bad for the junior level, but if he does want to make the jump to the next level, it is an area he will need to work on.
Lipinski’s next steps
Lipinski will be back in the WHL this year with Vancouver to start the season alongside Honzek. He should play mostly top-six minutes this season with a healthy dose of powerplay and penalty kill minutes. With the number of reps he needs, there’s half a chance he spends two seasons in the Dub before moving over to the AHL should he continue to improve.
From there, he probably needs at least two seasons before his future begins to really clear up. If he continues to trend in this direction, he could develop into a handy NHLer down the line.
Projection with the Flames
Best case scenario, he likely tops out as a middle-six forward at the NHL level, but he has a lot of the tools to be at worst a good AHLer or depth NHLer as opposed to falling out after junior hockey. The tools are there and the warts are minimal, but the ceiling is the big question. If he reaches there, the Flames may have found a gem in Lipinski.
Here’s more information for every player a part of the Calgary Flames’ 2023 NHL Draft class: