July 18th, 2024

Tij Iginla embraces family name, eager to follow dad’s footsteps entering NHL draft

By John Wawrow, The Associated Press on June 24, 2024.

FILE - Team White's Tij Iginla (17) carries the puck up ice in front of Team Red's Tanner Howe (43) during the first period of the CHL top prospects hockey game Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, in Moncton, New Brunswick. Tij Iginla embraces his family name and the possibility of following his father Jerome's footsteps should the Calgary Flames select him in the NHL draft that opens with the first round on Friday. He's one of numerous prospects who have past NHL family ties in a group that includes Aatos Koivu, Lukas Fischer and Max Plante.(Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

Tij Iginla doesn’t shy away from his famous last name, instead embracing the expectations that come with being the son of a Hockey Hall of Famer.

The 17-year-old is so comfortable being Jarome Iginla’s son, he welcomes the possibility of following his father’s footsteps should he be selected by the Calgary Flames in the NHL draft this weekend in Las Vegas.

“I think there might be a little extra attention and expectations and pressure. But for me, having my dad and having my family, the pros heavily outweigh the cons,” Iginla said earlier this month.

“Obviously, if I was to go to Calgary, that would be kind of magnified,” he added. “I mean, I’d be thrilled to go anywhere. But I think it would be cool to play in a Canadian market where the fans have as much passion as they do.”

Jarome Iginla spent 15-plus of his 20 NHL seasons being the face of the Flames after being traded to Calgary by Dallas six months after the Stars selected him with the 11th pick in the 1995 draft.

The intrigue of another Iginla landing in Calgary has become a topic of discussion after the 6-foot, 182-pound forward significantly boosted his draft stock. His 47 goals in 64 games for the Kelowna Rockets ranked sixth among Western Hockey League players and he finished 22nd overall with 84 points; it was a 41-goal and 66-point improvement from his rookie season.

The Flames currently hold the ninth pick, and Iginla just happens to be NHL Central Scouting’s ninth-ranked North American skater, though his overall ranking drops outside of the top 10 when adding in European skaters.

Jarome Iginla, now a Flames adviser recently told Sportsnet.com he has no input in the team’s plans.

More family ties

Tij Iginla heads the list of prospects with direct NHL ties expected to be selected this weekend. Among the notables are Finland’s Aatos Koivu, the son of former Canadiens captain Saku Koivu, who also played for Anaheim.

There’s also Lukas Fischer, who’s father Jiri won a Stanley Cup championship with Detroit, and Noah Lapointe, who’s dad Martin won two titles with the Red Wings. Max Plante is the son of former NHL player Derek, and then there’s Miroslav Satan Jr., whose father of the same name played more than 1,000 NHL games.

“Maybe take a couple of advices from him, but just kind of do my own thing,” the 18-year-old Koivu said, when asked about his father who is an adviser for his son’s Finnish League team, TPS. “Maybe sometimes it might actually motivate me a bit because he played. So I kind of just want to show people that I can play as well, and I can be a good player myself.”

It’s all about family for Iginla, who spent his first WHL season in Seattle before being traded last summer to Kelowna, where he got to stay with his younger brother, Joe, at one of his parent’s off-season homes. The return to familiar surroundings benefited Iginla after he struggled as a rookie finding a niche on a veteran-laden Seattle team.

“It was the first time in my life where I was getting healthy-scratched,” said Iginla of being limited to playing just 48 regular-season and three playoff games for the eventual WHL champions.

“I just tried to use it as fuel and motivation as much as I could,” he added. “Going through that adversity, I think it helped me to build a lot of grit.”

Answering questions

Rockets coach Kris Mallette was impressed by how Iginla responded to adversity while being open to constructive criticism and improving his game. Mallette said he would often relay to Iginla conversations he had with NHL scouts on what they perceived being the player’s deficiencies.

Some said he was too individualistic. Others questioned his lack of physical play. One by one, Iginla checked off lingering questions.

“That showed the NHL scouts that, OK, here’s a player that’s very coachable,” Mallette said. “Did he like it? Probably not. But he took it upon himself to continue to work on it and trust the process and see the results because of it.”

Central Scouting chief Dan Marr referred to Iginla as “a complete package.”

“He’s an exciting player. He’s got speed, quickness and skills. And he can finish,” Marr said. “This is not a kid who plays off his name.”

Iginla draws upon the experiences of growing up around the NHL. He recalled sitting at the “kiddie table” when his dad invited Avalanche teammate Nathan MacKinnon for Thanksgiving, and meeting Sidney Crosby, after his father was traded to Pittsburgh in 2013.

“From an outside perspective, it might seem like there’s more pressure, more expectations,” Tij Iginla said. “But for me, my motivation comes from within. I want to succeed because it’s what I want to do, and my dream.”

AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

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