Iginla draft bug

The 2024 NHL Draft kicks off next Friday, with the Blue Jackets holding the No. 4 overall pick in what could be one of the more interesting drafts in recent years.

Canadian center Macklin Celebrini is all but guaranteed to go No. 1 overall to San Jose, but things are wide open after that. There isn’t much of a consensus in the scouting community on who will go next, with a plethora of two-way centers (Cayden Lindstrom, Konsta Helenius, Berkly Catton, Tij Iginla), productive wingers (Ivan Demidov, Cole Eiserman, Beckett Sennecke) and dominant defensemen (Artyom Levshunov, Zeev Buium, Zayne Parekh, Anton Silayev, Sam Dickinson) all in the mix to go just about anywhere in the top 10.

MORE: Draft consensus poll | CBJ draft hub

Our annual consensus poll detailed what the options are, but as the draft nears, we’re taking a closer look at some of the top players available. Starting today, we’ll count down from No. 9 in our consensus poll ranking to No. 2.

The profiles start with ninth-ranked Tij Iginla, a power forward and NHL legacy who spent this past season starring for Kelowna of the Western Hockey League.

We’ll list Iginla’s vitals, his accomplishments in his career to this point, share a couple quotes from the player himself at the NHL Scouting Combine and conclude with expert opinions on the standout.

Tij Iginla: The Vitals

Position: Center

Age: 17 (Born Aug. 1, 2006)

Height/Weight: 6-0, 191

Hometown: Lake Country, B.C.

The Accomplishments

  • Tied for sixth in the Western Hockey League during the 2023-24 season with 47 goals, adding 37 assists for 84 points in 64 games.
  • Added nine goals among 15 points in 11 playoff games for the Rockets.
  • Had nine multigoal games in the WHL regular season and two more in the postseason.
  • Notched 27 multipoint games during the WHL regular season, including a quartet of four-point games and five three-point contests.
  • Finished third on Canada’s team at the 2024 World U-18 Championships with 12 points (six goals, six assists).
  • Debuted in the WHL the previous two seasons, skating in a combined 51 games with Seattle and posting a 6-13-19 line.
  • Is the No. 9-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting Bureau.
  • Is the son of Jarome Iginla, who played 20 years in the NHL and posted 625 goals and 675 assists for 1,300 points with Calgary, Colorado, Pittsburgh, Boston and Los Angeles.

What’s Next

NHL projection: With his puck-hounding skills and ability to score, Iginla projects as a top-six wing at the NHL level who could be on a top line in his best seasons.

Why CBJ should draft him: As the playoffs prove every year, you can never have too much snarl, and Iginla would certainly add some. Mix in his scoring ability and NHL lineage and you have someone who’s going to know how to play the game the right way.

Why they should not: Simply put, fourth overall might be a bit high for Iginla, but he’s certainly moving up draft boards. With such a high pick, though, the Blue Jackets might be looking for a center or a defenseman given the wings already in the system.

In Iginla’s Words

“Growing up I obviously saw my dad in the NHL, and it was always my dream to get there as well. It always felt so far away. As just a kid on the outdoor rink, thinking, ‘When’s my draft year? 2024. It seems so far away.’ But now it’s coming pretty quick. It’s been a lot of fun.

“My whole life obviously my dad has been there with me, and I think I’ve gotten used to answering questions and hearing about him. From an outside perspective, it might seem like there’s more pressure, more expectations, things like that, but I think for me my motivation comes from within. I want to have success because it’s what I want to do and my dream. I try to block out the outside noise as much as I can.

“During my 16-year-old year with Seattle, I went through a little bit of adversity. It was the first time in my life I was getting healthy scratched, things like that. I think I tried to use it as fuel and motivation as much as I could and use it more to motivate me and put everything I have into it and try to have a big summer. Just going through that adversity I think helped me build a lot of grit. Coming into this season, it was my draft year, and I didn’t have as good of a 16-year-old year, so I felt like I needed a big year. Fortunately, I was able to get off to a good start and try to prove myself as much as I could.”

The Experts Say

Looking around the Internet, prospect experts have given their take on Iginla’s game. Here’s what a few of them have to say.

Chris Peters, FloHockey: Iginla has elite hands, with quick puck skills and a deadly release. His rise up the draft charts has been fueled by his game improving with each passing month. Iginla has good details off the puck, where he can be disruptive to the opposing team. He has quickness and while there isn’t a ton of a physical edge to him, he engages with his body. Iginla also developed a goal-scorer’s touch, working to get pucks to the interior and scoring from higher-percentage areas. While he has center capabilities, it seems more likely he will be a wing where he can maximize the offensive tools that are so plainly evident in his game.

Tony Ferrari, The Hockey News: Life is never fun when you must face Tij Iginla. Just when you think there is a bit of time or space, he takes it away and pesters you for the puck. He is one of the most hard-working and relentless players in the NHL draft class. Iginla’s game is built on that motor and the little details. Whether it’s being on the right side of the puck to support, getting in on the forecheck and taking the best route possible or just understanding how to time his routes on the cycle, Iginla has mastered the little things.

Luke Sweeney, Dobber Prospects: Few players in this draft have had as rapid of an ascension as winger Tij Iginla, and with good reason. Iginla began the season as a dogged, hard-nosed player with some exciting tools and strong details and habits across the board. By the end of the WHL playoffs where Iginla scored at a near goal-per-game rate, it’s clear that he has everything you’d want in a high-end top-six forward.

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