Vancouver Giants: Flames prospect Lipinski learns faceoff tricks

A right-handed shot, Jaden Lipinski has been taking some draws left-handed to take advantage of particular situations in a bid to make himself a better faceoff man and a more rounded player.

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Vancouver Giants centre Jaden Lipinski’s bid to become an ambidextrous faceoff man might to be the best proof of his focus on the game’s finer details.

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Lipinski, 19, is a Calgary Flames’ prospect. He’s a right-handed shot, but has been taking a small handful of faceoffs on the left side this WHL season with the Giants, reasoning that the curve of the blade works in his favour when he’s trying to pull the puck directly backwards in that fashion.

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There’s also the element of surprise, with Lipinski admitting “that it keeps the other guy guessing … it makes him think for a second.”

“It’s about finding different ways to win draws,” the 6-foot-4, 205 pound Scottsdale, Ariz., native continued. “It’s not about having a go-to move. If you can win draws in three different ways the other guy is not going to know what’s coming.”

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Lipinski was a fourth-round pick of the Flames last summer. He’s playing on Vancouver’s top line, slotted between Flames 2023 first-rounder Samuel Honzek and Ty Halaburda. Lipinski was second in team scoring going into Vancouver’s Wednesday visit to the Victoria Royals, with 45 points, including 15 goals, in 50 games. 

He finished with 19 goals and 51 points in 66 games last season. 

Zeroing in on something as specific as faceoffs in a conversation with Lipinski is on-brand with what he’s been saying all year, though. He’s talked more than once about needing to add layers to his game to help him advance through the ranks.

Fourth-round picks aren’t automatics to the NHL. Lipinski doesn’t duck that, saying that “it’s not necessarily my ceiling,” but also maintaining that “the more you can do and the more reliable you are the more opportunities you’re going to get.”

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It adds to his value with the Flames. It’s a boost in multiple ways for the Giants as well. Lipinski is playing in all facets for Vancouver coach Manny Viveiros, and he’s setting an example for the younger players about not gauging success merely off of goals and assists.

“I love the details that he pays attention to,” Giants general manager Barclay Parneta said. “He’s learning his craft.

“You see so many players who put up point totals at this level who make their way into the pro ranks and then fall by the wayside because they don’t evolve.” 

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We’ve seen what’s been dubbed the flip-handed faceoff used somewhat around the NHL over the past few years. Former Vancouver Canucks centre Nick Bonino, who started this season with the New York Rangers, has been a practitioner.

Lipinski works on it with Vancouver associate coach Adam Maglio. Lipinski is particular with it in games. He picks his spots. For example, he had a draw to the left of Vancouver goalie Brett Mirwald in the waning moments of a 4-3 win over the Everett Silvertips a couple of weeks ago at the Langley Events Centre and opted to go righty.

There are no statistic breakdowns through the WHL for right-handed and left-handed faceoffs for him. He’s been strong overall, though, with a 58 per cent (684-of-1,179) winning percentage in the circle going into Vancouver’s visit to the Royals. He was third in the league in faceoffs, second in wins and second in winning percentage among players with 900 or more attempts.

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The Flames regularly have members of their player development staff at Giants games. Former Canucks winger Martin Gelinas has been at several. Darren Rommerdahl and Rebecca Johnston took in all three games of Vancouver’s triple-header weekend with the Royals last month.

Having both Honzek and Lipinski with the Giants plays a role in these visits now, but Gelinas especially was at Giants games frequently when Honzek was on the injured list earlier this season.

“They come often. I enjoy it. I feel like I’m learning lots,” Lipinski said of the Calgary player development coaches.

Lipinski is yet to sign his entry-level contract with the Flames. He will be eligible to play minor pro next season.

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