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Nation Network 2017 Prospect Profile: #13 – Owen Tippett

This draft might not possess a better pure goal scorer than Owen Tippett. His combination of speed, power and a deadly shot that many consider the best in his class make him a threat to score on any shift in a number of different ways.

If you’re a fan of throwback hockey, you’ll love Tippett’s game. I don’t necessarily think I’d describe him as a power forward, but he plays that kind of bull in a china shop brand of hockey that can lend itself to that style of player. I just so happen to be a fan of that style of hockey, and I can honestly say there’s no prospect I more thoroughly enjoyed watching than Tippett.

Industry consensus kept Tippett right around the top five of his class for most of the season — though I should add, there are big-time Tippett detractors. Through no fault of his own, Tippett’s fallen, sometimes significantly, in the eyes of many analysts. I think that’s more a byproduct of last risers than Tippett’s own play. The Nation Network consensus ranking has Tippett as the 13th overall prospect in his class.

Bio:

  • Age: 18-years-old, 1999-02-16
  • Birthplace: Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
  • Position: RW
  • Handedness: R
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 203 lbs
  • Draft Year Team: Mississauga Steelheads – OHL

Stats:

Read about pGPS here.

Scouts:

NHL (CSS) ISS FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS HOCKEYPROSPECT MCKENZIE MCKEEN’S PRONMAN BUTTON MAREK
7 5 6 22 6 6 6 23 4

From ESPN’s Corey Pronman:

The cousin of the No. 33 overall pick in 2015, Mitchell Stephens (Tampa Bay Lightning), Tippett is a very exciting winger to watch. He was a dominant goal scorer this season, due to both the quality and quantity of shots on goal. Tippett is one of the best speedsters in the draft class. His ability to go from 0 to 60 — metaphorically speaking, though he’s darn quick — is very impressive, and he can gain the offensive blue line with ease. He has a high skill level and can make some open-ice plays, but he’s much more comfortable going north-south than east-west. He can kill penalties due to his speed and IQ, and can be a shorthanded scoring threat while doing so. Tippett’s game is more about playing in straight lines, but don’t let his very tilted goal-to-assist ratio fool you, as he can make plays to his teammates too, a facet of his game that improved as the season went on.

From Bob McKenzie:

Mississauga Steelhead hard-shooting winger Owen Tippett, who also happens to be the cousin of Tampa prospect and London Knight Mitchell Stephens. Tippett’s range of votes was from three to 13.

From The Draft Analyst:

Rugged goal scorer with a lethal shot who produced one of the best wire-to-wire seasons of any 2017 draft prospect. A power forward who can skate extremely well and has tremendous balance and agility, Tippett led the Steelheads with 44 goals and 284 shots. He’s a tenacious goal scorer with a strong desire to succeed. Tippett has an excellent shot and bullies his way into any scoring area to get his stick on the puck. He’s certainly benefitted from flanking a high-end playmaker like Mike McLeod, but he takes a never-say-die approach to every shift and proved to be a low-maintenance goal scorer as the season progressed.

Our Take:

There isn’t a better winger in this year’s class. To that exact end, I think you can attest Tippett’s lowered rankings here and in other publications to the reality that he doesn’t play a premier position. Tippett led first-time draft eligible in five-on-five goals, was third in five-on-five primary point product and second among in the OHL in five-on-five estimated shots per sixty minutes.

I spent much of the season with the conviction that Tippett was the best draft eligible player from the OHL period. It wasn’t until the season’s end that I changed my view of him. Still, I think that certain segments of the scouting community and even ourselves have him just a bit low for my tastes.

Tippett’s detractors often suggest that he’s a one-dimensional player, and that’s what’s kept him from remaining among the top of his class. They see a straight-line goal scorer, only capable of creating offence off the rush. Then there’s the issue of his defensive zone play.

The notion that Tippett is a one-trick pony offensively is, in my estimation, patently false. He’s at his best when he can attack the offensive zone with speed — this much is true. His ability to contribute offensively doesn’t end there, though. Tippett is a tenacious forechecker, willing and capable of digging the puck out himself from below the hash marks. On the power play, Tippett spent his time as the trigger man from the point. A player that shoots as often as Tippett does, from as many parts of the ice as Tippett does, doesn’t meet my qualifications for being “one-dimensional”.

Similarly, I’m not sure I agree with my peers who point to Tippett’s defensive shortcomings as a reason for concern. He’s a terribly fast player, and that gives him the ability to cover a tonne of ice and apply pressure in the defensive zone. The Steelheads used Tippett on their penalty kill, often on the first unit. The Steelheads controlled 15.59% more goals at five-on-five this season with Tippett on the ice as opposed to the bench.

The one concern I share with parts of the scouting community is about Tippett’s mental makeup. Sometimes he can seem entirely disengaged. The night in and night out effort level can often wane. Mostly, I worry about how easily opposition defenders can take Tippett off his game. In the Steelheads playoff run, those disciplinary issues came to the front on many an occasion.

The totality of Tippett’s abilities override any concerns I might have, though. Tippett’s offensive toolkit, hockey IQ and skating make him a player that I consider a solid bet to become an elite offensive player at the professional level. You can fix the elements of his game that need work, but there’s no teaching a player to see the ice as well as Tippett does, and he has all the physical tools to capitalize on that vision, too.

When we view Tippett’s draft season through the lens of pGPS, he carries a 65.8% Expected Success. The successful members of Tippett’s cohort carry an Expected Points per 82 games of 50.2, which checks out as a first line rate. His pGPS career assignment is that of a second line forward.

A player with Tippett’s production, sterling underlying metrics and physical tools shouldn’t last terribly long through the first round of the draft. There’s every reason for a team to take him in the top ten. If he’s there past the point, teams should run to the floor to make the call. He’s going to be a hell of a player.

  • Jabs

    I’ve seen Tippet play several times in person. Everytime I watch him I think of Gary Roberts. A big strong guy who goes to the net and the goals go in. Either from a great shot a lucky bounce off his head or a rebound of his butt. Either way, he gets to where he needs to be to score.

  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    So I haven’t watched him play, but his game sounds eerily like Jake Virtanen’s. Can anyone more knowledgeable possibly explain to me why the same caveats don’t exist with Tippett as they did (and do) with Jake?

    • TheRealPB

      Exactly. This is what I keep thinking every time I see the analysis of Tippett. And while I get JD’s point that he may being undervalued because of his position, the reality is that a number of the other C ranked higher than him have played significantly/almost exclusively on the wing this season so I don’t think that’s the only issue.

      • TheRealPB

        This is from one of the prospect profiles (from The Hockey Writers) before Virtanen’s draft:

        “Virtanen’s increasing points and goal production speaks to both his offensive skill but also his hockey IQ. The Western League is a big jump from bantam or midget, and Virtanen at times seemed tentative in both ends of the ice in his first couple years in the league. This season, everything just seemed to click and his confidence grew throughout the year. He also uses his teammates much more effectively than he did when he came into the league.”

        That particular profile goes on to say that the problem is “between Virtanen’s ears” but isn’t referencing his hockey IQ but rather his lack of discipline and tendency to go over the edge in aggressiveness.

        I tend to think we’re still dismissing Virtanen way too quickly — a combination of being probably rushed, his “NHL size frame” making him apparently too attractive to pass up, the clearly poor messaging about how he should be training in the off-season, and then getting badly misused by WD made last year a lost year. He clearly gained Green’s acceptance over time and spent a lot of time working on those facets of his game that needed it. I still don’t know that he’ll really turn into a top six forward (and certainly will be hard-pressed to match a Larkin, Fabbri or Pasternak in the future) but I don’t think we should give up on him quite yet. I think the warning signs about Virtanen are similar to the ones about Tippett (North-South vs. East-West game, great shot and speed, not a whole lot about creativity). That’s opposed to what I remember from the scouting report on Tkachuk, for example, which was all about his hockey sense from the hash marks down.

        • Dirk22

          Again it’s always going to be about what they passed up to draft him – hopefully he works out but I don’t see anything in his past that gives any indication he will ever be a top-6. He was only a ppg forward in both his draft and D + 1 year, he was atrocious at the world juniors and he couldn’t produce at the AHL. I think he’ll make the NHL but what’s the ceiling? 30-35 points?

          • TheRealPB

            It’s really hard to have too much faith at this point; the signs aren’t good. I do think if he puts it together he MIGHT have higher upside than that but at this point Hayden Fleury, Michael Dal Colle and Virtanen are looking like pretty big busts when compared to Nylander and Ehlers.

    • Killer Marmot

      Virtanen had an okay rookie season. In his second season he showed up out of shape and overweight, and never recovered from that. There`s no particular reason to think that Tippet would do the same.

  • Steamer

    Thanks JD, a well researched piece. Appreciate your subjective evaluation as well. Think Tippet is the kind of player whose skill & scoring touch will facilitate him making the league quite quickly, with teams willing to look upon his defensive issues as a ‘work in progress’. My guess is Vegas at #6.