NASHVILLE - The only thing better than realizing your childhood dream, is realizing your childhood dream alongside one of your closest pals.

It may have taken a few moments for Jaden Lipinski to put the pieces together, but the 'cool factor' was then quick to set in.

"I actually forgot he (Samuel Honzek) went to Calgary and then someone mentioned it," he laughed. "I'm like, 'Oh my God! That's awesome.'

"It will be nice to see some familiar faces."

Honzek (the Flames' first-round pick) and Lipinski (their fourth) are teammates with the WHL's Vancouver Giants, creating one heck of a reunion in the group chat and when the prospects inevitably convene for their annual development in the coming days.

Lipinski is also good buddies with Flames prospect Cade Littler, who was drafted in the seventh round last year and has been busy honing his craft with the Wenatchee Wild of the BCHL. The two crossed paths with the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes Triple-A Program, and have developed quite a friendship ever since.

"I played with Cade my whole 16-year-old year," Lipinski said. "I stayed with his family, he stayed with my family - so yeah, we're pretty close."

Some familiarity in the ranks would definitely help quell the nerves of draft day. And while Lipinski admits it was a little stressful watching the picks roll in, the shock and awe of having your name called and the Flames iconic red-and-yellow sweater tugged over his head was worth each and every agonizing second.

After all, he's put his whole life into this moment. What's another few hours?

"I love going there and playing at the Saddledome," Lipinski said. "This is a great opportunity.

"It makes you realize all the effort that it took to get you here," he added in a 1-on-1 interview with FlamesTV. "Not just me, but the people supporting me. It's cool to share this moment with them, to hug my dad and my buddies here to support me. It's really cool."

"I'm incredibly hard working"

Lipinski - a Scottsdale, Ariz. native who idolized fellow desert standouts Matthew Knies and Josh Doan - has a unique story that ties brilliantly into the Flames' past, present and future.

He was initially passed over in the WHL Draft a few years ago, but the Giants listed him when the team brass made a trek down to scout one of their picks, his Jr. Coyotes teammate Colton Langkow.

Yes. That Langkow.

It's a beautiful twist of fate that brings Lipinski into the same organization where Colton's dad, Daymond, had so many good years. That it came in Craig Conroy's first-ever draft as a GM, along with the newly hired Special Advisor in Jarome Iginla, adds to an already incredible tale that truly brings the Lipinski story full circle.

"His puck possession is as good as anybody I've watched this year," Conroy assessed. "Strong. We have to pick up the pace a little bit, but you see the upside with the skill, the ability down low.

"Jarome was saying, 'This is great. Two guys in Vancouver, that's an easy trip for me!'


The 6-foot-4, 210-lb. Lipinski had 51 points (19G, 32A) in 66 games with the Giants this year. Primarily known for his playmaking ability, he took a big step in his puck protection and showed a higher level of vision and creativity as the year went along.

It's the elusive - and highly coveted - combination of size AND skill, which the Flames were clearly targeting, based on the six picks they announced over the past two days.

"You watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs - and not that size is everything - but you see the teams that are having success and winning, and size was a big part of it," Conroy said. "We said if we could get bigger, that was something we targeted. It just happened to work this year where the big guys we targeted were there and we were able to get them."

"I've said it before, I think our prospect base is missing a little skill and size," added Flames Director of Amateur Scouting Tod Button. "But we weren't going to go away from skill just for size.

"It had to be together and it worked out."

Lipinski is that. And as Conroy alluded to, he wins battles by effectively using his towering frame and as he continues to build strength to complement the finesse in his game, he'll become even more of a menace to knock off the puck.

"I'm a big, skilled power forward who can play up and down the lineup and likes to play a two-way game," Lipinski said. "It's going to take some time, but I'm the hardest-working guy. I know I'm going to get there one day.

"If I have to spend a few years in the American League - whatever it is - I'm going to get there eventually."