J.C. Lipon is a driven and hard-working center. After going undrafted in the WHL, he worked his way to lead his team in scoring. He has been passed over in the NHL draft twice, but this could be his year. Lipon has had his fare share of disappointment in his young career, but he seems to have used each setback to make him a better player. The 19-year-old will almost definitely be drafted this year - but will it be to the Devils in the fourth round? This profile will look at how Lipon would fit into the Devils organization if he is selected.
Who is J.C. Lipon?
Any player who has been passed over at the NHL Draft twice before may not stick out as a player you'd want to pick immediately, but J.C. Lipon has used that adversity to improve his game and make his name one to be heard at the 2013 NHL Draft. Lipon is not a big guy coming in at 5'11" and 180 lbs, but he has worked extremely hard to make his size a non-factor in his game. A few years ago he seemed to be a player with potential, but little confidence or strength. He has worked hard and literally fought his way to become a necessity for his WHL team, the Kalmloops Blazers. After making the team as a sixteen-year-old rookie, it took until he was seventeen, going on eighteen to realize he needed to add grit and physicality to his game,
"I had to get the coaches' attention somehow. I did. I turned into a power forward who fought a few times that year. Then I just kind of worked on everything over the summer."
He bought into everything Blazers coach Guy Charron told him he needed to do to succeed and came back year after year with more confidence and ability.
In comparing Lipon to other players in his age group, he was sixth in scoring in the WHL - but he missed time for the World Juniors in his final eligible year. His selection for the World Juniors is impressive due to the lockout bringing many other players into the competition. He is one of the few undrafted players to ever make the Canadian junior team. There were ten first-round draft picks on Team Canada including 2011 number one pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He is the first undrafted nineteen-year-old to make the team in a lockout year.
Perhaps the best attribute to his game is his passing ability, but Lipon is a talented skater who goes straight for the net. He has had to fight for a spot on the team for his entire career, so he gives his all during every shift. If he makes it to the NHL, it will be because of his grit and work ethic, not his natural skill. He is a physical player who sometimes crosses the line into some questionable hits, but he usually uses his physical edge to his advantage.
The biggest question about Lipon going late in the draft is whether or not his age will work in his advantage. One positive to picking an older player in the draft is there is less question on his full potential. Lipon is almost twenty-years-old, so he wont have as much of a possible upside than an eighteen-year-old, but there are less questions to where his game will go after being drafted. Unlike the previous two drafts, a team will most likely pick up Lipon, so going the safe route and signing him as a free agent won't be an option.
What experts are saying about J.C. Lipon:
On Lipon's work ethic and patience before getting his chance in the NHL, Craig Bonner, the Kamloops Blazers GM said,
"He's paid his dues and got here with hard work and compete and a lot of teams respect that and appreciate guys like that... He's got the attitude. He wants to prove people wrong. He's a very competitive guy and that competitive edge makes him a better player."
Kevin McGran spoke of how Lipon grew-up and started to show how he could help a team,
"Lipon is a classic late bloomer with the Kamloops Blazers, a point-a-game player who has now seen his stock rise in hockey circles following the ease with which he handled his bump-and-grind role."
Garth Malarchuk, a scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs also sees Lipon as a late bloomer. He also notes the consistency coming through in his game along with other positive attributes he has to offer,
"He's become more consistent in his play game-to-game. He works hard, he goes to the tough areas, he goes to the net. He's maybe one of those guys who's a bit of a late bloomer. He's having a good year. He worked his way on to this team. You have to give him credit for that. For sure there'll be teams watching him."
In 2012, NHL Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan saw a great improvement from his first draft eligible year,
"This kid has just exploded out of the gate. Here's a kid that in his [initial] draft year wasn't drafted, and guys that were drafted in the first two rounds [last year], he's better now at this point than the kids that were drafted."
Making the World Juniors was a long shot for a player like Lipon. Hockey Canada head scout Kevin Predergast gives J.C. props for his effort and determination,
"You've got to give it to the kid. He came in here as a longshot to make the team. Here's a kid that last year was a bit of a banger and get-in-your-face type of player. Now he's added offence to his game. Between that offence and that grit, we think he's a player who can play on our first line or play on our fourth line."
There are not many highlight videos of J.C. Lipon lighting up the lamp, but here are two examples of the physicality he can bring to the game. As noted above, Lipon used his ability to fight to find a steady place on the roster in the WHL.
As a fourth round pick, I wouldn't mind picking up a player like J.C. Lipon. Since he is older, he is closer to making it to the NHL if that's where he ends up. He has been passed up in the draft twice before, and the Devils have a history of working well with undrafted players. While he isn't a guaranteed NHL caliber player, no one being chosen in the fourth round is. With that said, it is important for New Jersey to choose wisely with their picks because they don't have many. There may be more talented guys who slip later into the draft, but I think Lipon has potential to become a strong power forward in the league.
What are your thoughts on J.C. Lipon? Would you be skeptical about taking an older player who has been looked over in the draft twice already? Is there a player you would rather see chosen in the fourth round? Feel free to discuss your thoughts on Lipon in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!