CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - Owen Tippett is hungry for more.
After getting a small taste of the NHL last season, the fiery 19-year-old forward arrived at last month's development camp eager to take his first steps towards earning a full-time roster spot with the Florida Panthers for the upcoming season. And with a glut of playmakers and a need for finishers, general manager Dale Tallon is ready to give the sharpshooter every opportunity.
"I expect him to come to camp and fight for a job," Tallon said. "You know, he's a great shooter, no one can shoot the puck better than this kid. He loves to shoot the puck, and we've got a lot of playmakers that can give him the puck. So, we're going to give him every opportunity to make our team. It doesn't matter how old you are, it's how good you are and how hard you work."
For Tippett, knowing that the door is open is all the motivation he needs.
"It feels good to hear that," he said. "It's a goal of mine to crack the lineup this year."
The 10th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, Tippett scored one goal in seven games with the Panthers last season before being sent back to his junior club in Mississauga to avoid burning a year off of his entry-level contract. In his debut against Philadelphia on Oct. 17, he fired off a game-high seven shots and was singled out as the club's "best player" by coach Bob Boughner.
"It was a great experience," Tippett said of his debut. "There was a lot of open ice."
After returning to the OHL, Tippett posted another solid season with the Steelheads, scoring a team-high 36 goals despite competing in far fewer games than his teammates due to his brief stint in South Florida. In just 51 games, he matched his previous career-high with 75 points.
At the end of the season, Tippett registered a goal and an assist in five games in the AHL.
"I think that experience in the NHL and AHL helped me a lot," Tippett said. "It helped me get the knowledge of what it means to be a pro each and every day… It's a different speed from what I had been used to in previous years back in Mississauga. It's obviously great to get experience."
It's that experience that Tippett hopes will give him the leg up on what projects to be a crowded group of forwards competing for a small handful of spots at training camp later this summer. In addition to fellow first-round pick Henrik Borgstrom, returning forwards like Denis Malgin, Frank Vatrano and Maxim Mamin are also vying for a job in Florida's bottom-six.
With that challenge ahead, Tippett saw development camp as the perfect jumping off point.
"Just like last year, I thought it was a good way to make my first impression," Tippett said. "It's the same thing this year. Any time you come to camp like this, you want to leave a good impression on the team and the coaches."
At camp, Tippett certainly stood out from his fellow prospects, not so much because of his skill - which was clearly evident - but more due to the leadership he showed. A year removed from his own draft, 6-foot-1, 200-pound winger both looked and acted like a pro, offering up his services to both coaches and teammates during on-ice drills and off-ice workout sessions.
"Owen is a lot more mature this year, not so much a deer in the headlights coming off the draft and stuff," Panthers director of player personnel Bryan McCabe said. "Really asserting himself as a leader out there and took the bull by the horns for us, which was great."
That willingness to lead, Tippett said, stemmed from a newfound confidence.
"It benefits a lot," Tippett said. "I feel like I can go up to [the coaches] more. I mean, I'm not as shy as I was last year, maybe. It feels good to have that one-on-one face time with them."
After watching the Panthers fall one point short of the playoffs last season, Tippett said he's now more motivated than ever to join the club as it looks to contend during the 2018-19 campaign.
"I feel like I can be a part of it as soon as the start of the season," he said. "They missed the playoffs by one point, and I want to be able to contribute this year."