While Arizona’s NHL team appears to be in dire straits, the growth of hockey in Arizona has continued onward. Sure, a stud prospect like Auston Matthews can come from anywhere. But more and more developing players have come from that state. Some have hit big like Tage Thompson. Others have broken through to the NHL or AHL like Matthew Knies and Josh Doan, both alumni of the Junior Coyotes. The growth has pushed Arizona State University to make a bold step into D-1 hockey and it has been a good one so far. And while the NHL Coyotes’ future is in some kind of disarray, more and more young players are coming from that state. Such as the topic of today’s prospect profile, Vancouver Giants center Jaden Lipinski.
Who is Jaden Lipinski?
According to his Elite Prospects profile, Jaden Lipinski is from Scottsdale, Arizona; he was born on December 2, 2004; and he also came through the Phoenix Junior Coyotes. He is listed as a forward at EP but I have reason to believe he is a center. He has a right-handed shot, he is listed at 6’3” and weighting 198 pounds. He is large and certainly not lacking in terms of mass. His player page at WHL.ca lists him at 6’3” and 208 pounds. This could be a rare case of someone who may not need to add too much more muscle as an 18-year old prospect.
I also have reason to believe his life was in California for a bit as the earliest seasons in his EP profile list him with the Anaheim Junior Ducks at the U-13 level in 2017-18. He must have moved back to Arizona as he was with the Junior Coyotes for the next three seasons. Lipinski was never drafted into the Western Hockey League but he certainly caught the eyes of the Vancouver Giants scouts. Mostly because of his past with Colton Langkow, whom the Giants did draft. He was signed on April 9, 2021 to go to the major junior team.
As you would expect for most 16-turning-17 year old players, his first season in the WHL was not particularly amazing. He did receive fourth line minutes for most of that 2021-22 season per this Steve Ewen-authored article at The Province from March 9, 2022. Lipinski’s role started to grow a little more towards the end of that season. He finished with 68 games played, eight goals (one on the power play), nine assists (five on the power play), 34 penalty minutes, 84 shots on net, and 344 faceoff wins out of 666 attempted. Yes, he was a center with the Giants - and did receive at least a little power play time. Still, it was a not so impressive first season in major junior hockey.
After a season of WHL hockey under his belt, Lipinski certainly improved with the Giants in 2022-23. The production alone shows a big increase. He finished third on the team in points with 19 goals (an increase of 11), 32 assists (an increase of 23), 55 penalty minutes (an increase of 21), 152 shots on net (an increase of 68), and 460 faceoff wins out of 905 attempted. All in two fewer games than last season, too. This is the sort of thing you want to see after a player’s first season in major junior hockey. It is also the sort of thing that goes along with more ice time and a larger role on the team. He has no shootout attempts in 2021-22; he had 5 in 2022-23 (and scored on three of them). He had no shorthanded points in 2021-22; he had two in 2022-23 - evidence of his presence on a penalty kill. His power play production increased to eight PPGs while maintaining five PPAs. He was picked up in part to his chemistry with the Giants-drafted Colton Langkow. Lipinski soared above him in 2022-23 to be one of Vancouver’s top forwards.
While this did not lead to any international spotlights, Lipinski did get some national attention as he was named to the Canadian Hockey League Top Prospects Game along with potential first round draft pick and teammate Samuel Honzek. As per Mike Morreale’s article about the game at NHL.com, Lipinski was the second Arizona-based prospect in the game. Again, Arizona keeps generating players. It may be just the one game but being named to it speaks to how much Lipinski grew at the major junior level in 2022-23.
Where is Jaden Lipinski Ranked?
While Lipinski certainly grew to gain more attention in the WHL and the larger CHL, his draft stock remains quite low.
- #49 North American skaters - NHL Central Scouting (Final Ranking)
- #80 - Craig Button, TSN (May 15, 2023 ranking)
- #90 - FC Hockey (Spring ranking)
- #92 The Hockey Writers - Peter Baracchini (April 4, 2023 ranking)
Lipinski did not even make some of the few public lists out there that ranked 100 prospects. And those he did, well, he barely got in - which is what you would expect for a potential late third, early fourth round selection. What is worse is that he seemed to fall off in a few rankings. His EP profile had him at #92 in Draft Prospects Hockey’s rankings, but that was their winter list. The spring list on their site did not include Lipinski in their Top 100. Central Scouting Services had Lipinski at #38 for North American skaters for their midterm ranking. They dropped him eleven spots in their final rankings. What happened?
As best as I can tell, here is what I can guess at what would ward people off from Lipinski.
One: He is an older prospect. Lipinski will turn 19 in this coming December. While he definitely improved at the WHL level, it may not cause some to think much of his professional future since he is further along than other prospects in this draft class in terms of age.
Two: Lipinski did not produce anything but five shots and some meh nights at the faceoff dots in four games against Kamloops in the playoffs. The Giants were swept and only Game 4 was close in that series (a 5-4 OT loss after three straight beatings by the Blazers); so I suspect no one on the Giants did well. Still, that cannot help.
Three: Lipinski’s production was uneven. Based on his game log, his best month on the scoresheet by far was December 2022 when he put up six goals, seven assists, and 39 shots on net in twelve games. That followed a four-goal, six-point November and a three-goal and 11-point October for a first-half total of thirteen goals and thirty points. Unfortunately for Lipinski, the second half of his season with Vancouver yielded six goals over the next three months. He would shoot less often in the next three months, going from 24 to 20 to 15. And outside of a four-assist night over Victoria on March 4, 2023, there were plenty of zeroes among a handful of points on some nights. While these are just basic stats, his shot rate dropping as well as the production going cold could have put scouts and observers off. Without a strong WHL playoff or any other activity like an international tournament, those last three months with the Giants were his last impressions for many.
Four: The WHL class, especially at forward, is very strong this year and so anyone who has struggled for a couple of months is going to be left behind. While Lipinski showed legitimate growth in his draft eligible season, so did plenty of other prospective hockey players. He is in the crowd instead of standing out from it.
All together, I can understand how most would not think very highly of Lipinski. Still, these low rankings do not mean he will not be drafted or should not be drafted. After all, it only takes one NHL team’s scouting department to decide they like a player. It just so happens that Lipinski may be waiting during the 2023 NHL Draft’s second day instead of hearing his name that morning.
What Others Say About Jaden Lipinski
In that Ewen article from The Province referenced earlier, Giants GM Barclay Parneta spoke glowingly of Lipinski:
He’s a hound dog on a bone with the puck. His ability to protect the puck along the wall is excellent...His ability to get the puck back along the wall is excellent as well.
I would take it with a grain of salt as it is coming from the guy who signed him. Still, it gives a sense of what he was doing in that first year of WHL hockey before getting a bigger role in 2022-23.
A more proper take can be had from Eugene Helfrick’s profile of Lipinski at The Hockey Writers. Helfrick gets to the point in terms of what he could become in the future:
However, Lipinski’s contributions on the ice were more than just points. He plays a solid game at both ends of the ice, and he is able to play on both the powerplay and the penalty kill. This means he could develop into a versatile player for the team that selects him, and while he may not have the highest ceiling, there’s value in a big-bodied bottom-six forward who can play a responsible two-way game.
And points out a flaw - another one as a ceiling of a bottom-six forward is not exactly something I would call praise - that could really keep him from being a later pick on the second day of the 2023 NHL Draft.
However, it should also come as no surprise if Lipinkski is taken sooner than expected. He has the size and toolkit that general managers love, and he strikes me as a player that has a fixable flaw (his skating is good enough but would need to improve) that a team may look at without a lot of concern.
Lipinski has been called a hard worker since coming to the Vancouver Giants by those in his organization and even as stated in parts of Helfrick’s profile. I do not doubt he will work to improve his game. The issue is how an organization will work with him to focus on specific issues that will help him reach that ceiling. Limited as it may be. It may not be worth taking a flyer on early. Yes, he is large and I do not doubt Helfrick’s point that some teams may see “big character forward” and take him earlier than perhaps necessary. But a later pick than the second round? Sure, take a shot.
A Little Video
There is not a lot out there on Jaden Lipinski in terms of highlights. So here is a collection of a few clips I did find.
- A goal against Everett which was the 8th best highlight to start the CHL season. Not that it is clear from the angle but he appears to go through his own legs on the shot.
- While Vancouver’s Youtube page does not have all games with highlights, they do have this video of a shootout win over Kamloops on December 3, 2022. Lipinski had two goals and an assist in this game. The first was a PPG and a fluke; a defender tried to clear it and the puck went off Lipinski’s shin and bounced into the net. Credit to him for getting to the slot at least. The assist was a PPA and far more legitimate. A clean pass from the halfwall to Ty Thorpe in the high slot for a one-timer goal. The second goal was a crucial empty-net equalizer wherein he crashed the net and was rewarded with a rebounded puck and a lot of net to shoot at. Lipinski also scored in the shootout, which helped the Giants get the win.
- This tweet from Adam Kierszenblat, who has covered Lipinski, has this short clip of Lipinski taking a pass upon a zone entry, moving inside to the left circle, and firing a shot for a score before taking a not-so-clean hit by an unhappy Kelowna player.
- This Kierzenblat-provided Tweet has Lipinski’s 19th of the season, which was a dandy as he deked through 22 in white and lifted the puck in before the goalie got run over by his teammate.
- Via Joel Henderson, this WHL tweeted highlight has Lipinski rifling a shot from the right circle past Victoria.
- For those more interested in hearing from Lipinski himself, here was his media availability for the CHL Top Prospects Game.
Not that you can tell a lot, but it is clear that Lipinski’s shot is not half-bad. He understands where the spaces are in his goals and fired the puck with good pace. Even if the first goal against Kamloops was a fluke, he did go to the right spot to look for the loose puck in that situation. These are just glimpses of his game but I can kind of see when the few who have written him up say he could be someone with some effort.
An Opinion of Sorts
Jared Lipinski is a longshot of a prospect. Are there things to like about him? Of course. He is large and seemingly has filled out a good part of his frame. He has improved season-over-season with Vancouver. While he is not rated highly from a draft perspective, his work and improvement put him into a showcase situation like the CHL Top Prospect Game. He seemingly plays in all situations. From a Devils perspective, that Lipinski is a center is a small plus since the team could use some center prospects, longshot or otherwise.
That said, it also seems to me that there is valid reason why Lipinski is not being discussed further than a mid to late pick on the second day of the draft. His production in the second half of the season was not encouraging after a hot December. His lack of anything in the postseason did not help; although Vancouver was waxed by Kamloops in that first round series. He is on the older end of the prospect class so if he is going to make further improvements to his skating, his shot generation (the shot seems good when he uses it), and overall game, then he will need to do it soon. Sure, he works hard but there are a lot of prospects that also work hard. The question is whether the team drafting him can give him the right direction to make the most of Lipinski’s skillset. The reward could be a useful depth forward. Not something you want high in the draft, but later on - you can appreciate it.
Do I think the Devils should look to Lipinski? Not with their second round pick. If they had a third round pick in 2023, then I would be more agreeable. Anything later is more than fine. To take a quote from Will Scouch, if you like him, then take a swing and hope for the best. Which is pretty much the mindset for any pick beyond the third round and perhaps even late into that one. Should he turn out to be a pro, then it is a victory. The Devils have been pretty good at finding interesting prospects with legitimate upsides late in recent drafts. Whether or not they see Lipinski as one of them in the same vein as, say, Josh Filmon, remains to be seen. That is ultimately my take on Jaden Lipinski; he is a late round selection and possibly one to keep an eye on if made and he continues to progress.
I can see the appeal of Jaden Lipinski but I do not see much beyond a limited upside without further growth - which has yet to be attained. In the meantime, I would love to know your take on Jaden Lipinski in the comments. What do you think of his season as a whole in Vancouver? What did you like reading about him? What did you not like reading about him? Regardless of what I think, would you want the Devils to take him at all? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Jaden Lipinski in the comments. Thank you for reading.