If there's one aspect of Owen Tippett's game that has dominated the pre-draft chatter surrounding the Mississauga forward, it's the quality of shot he possesses. TSN's Craig Button wrote last month that he may have the best shot in this year's draft.
Kris Baker - who ranked Tippett at No. 9 on his Top 31 list - referred to the winger as a "budding power forward with a track record of being a dominant, pure goal scorer at every level he's played at."
Even Tippett himself agreed his shot is the most distinguishable trait in his game, the product of countless repetitions in the driveway as a youth growing up in Peterborough, Ont.
"I would say I've always kind of had it there," Tippett said at the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo earlier this month. "It wasn't anything I really saw a shooting coach or a skills coach for. It was just more something I practiced on my own."
That shot carried Tippett to a dramatic increase in production as a second-year player with the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League. He scored 44 goals in 60 games, up from 15 in 48 games the year prior. His points total was up from 20 to 75.
So, if the shot was always there, then what changed for Tippett?
"For me it was just, I wanted to come into the year more confident," he said. "Feel stronger, faster, more stable on my feet I guess. That was something I really focused on in the summer and I knew I wanted to have a big second year. I feel like I did the best I could."
The one down side that Baker pointed out in his analysis of Tippett was his room for growth defensively. It may be comforting to hear, then, that in Tippett's self-analysis he identified the defensive zone as the area he intends to improve upon next.
"One thing I really want to work on is being a 200-foot player," he said. "Just developing my game so I can play on both sides of the ice."
A few more quick hits on Tippett:
He interviewed with the Sabres
Tippett was one of many prospects who confirmed speaking with Buffalo at the combine. "They kind of just sat me down, got to know what kind of person I was, got to know what kind of player I was, a little family background so it was good," he said.
He's close friends with a Sabres prospect
Tippett said he's forged a close relationship with Sabres defensive prospect Austin Osmanski, an East Aurora native, during their two years as teammates with the Steelheads.
"My relationship with him is probably one of the best I've had," he said. "The guys in Mississauga are all really close and we kind of use each other for that support. He was even here this week, just saying 'if you need a ride anywhere' or that sort of thing."
He models himself after a two-time Cup champion
That two-time champion being none other than Phil Kessel of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"Just the way he uses his shot," Tippett said when asked what he tries to emulate in Kessel's game. "Also his speed and the way he uses those hard, crisp passes."