PHOENIX – Auston Matthews is the obvious name on the Valley’s short list of NHL stars. The superstar center already has 299 goals and 542 points in his young career. Matthews isn’t the only one, however. Mark Kastelic and Mathew Knies grew up playing for the Jr. Coyotes and eventually made their NHL debut.
The Jr. Coyotes have a history of producing goal scorers who can forecheck and play two ways. Scottsdale native Jaden Lipinski, a 6-foot-3 forward, fits that style and looks to become Arizona’s next hockey star as Wednesday’s NHL Draft approaches.
Lipinski, 18, always has been a hockey fanatic, not common among Arizonans. He began playing as a child for the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes and fell in love with the sport at the Ice Den Scottsdale.
“I was able to thrive out of that environment because there’s a lot of ex-NHL guys like Ray Whitney, Shane Doan and Daymond Langkow who are always around,” Lipinski said. “Me being a hockey fan I always knew when those guys were at the rink I always looked up to them.”
The similarities between Lipinski and the players before him are evident. Jr. Coyotes coaches instill toughness and physicality in their players.
“I think having the level of coaches that we have here, you know, that teaches the game the right way,” said Marc Fritsche, the director of Jr. Coyotes Tier Hockey. “I think that those players that you mentioned have genetics but with the way we play and have to play in a tenacious style of hockey. Our big push, especially from a younger age, is development.”
Lipinski, similar to those before him, had a knack for burying the puck behind the net. He scored 13 goals in 17 games during the last of his three seasons with the program.
Following his impressive career with the Jr. Coyotes, Lipinski was put on the protective player list by the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. All WHL teams are able to protect 50 players from ages 14-20, including the players on the roster. The Giants protected Lipinski, demonstrating their belief in him.
Giants general manager Barclay Parneta was at the Scottsdale Ice Den scouting Lipinski’s teammate Colton Langkow, who Vancouver drafted the previous year. Parneta, blown away by Lipinski’s size and dominance, was not surprised by his success once he began his career in Vancouver.
“We really saw the value on what he brought right away,” Parneta said. “He has the attributes that will lend well to him, playing at the professional level in the National Hockey League. I truly believe that he will play in the NHL.”
In his first season in Vancouver, Lipinski totaled 17 points, including four points during the Giants’ playoff run. He enjoyed a breakout 2022-23 season with 19 goals and 32 assists. Vancouver didn’t have the same playoff success, and Lipinski failed to total a point in four games.
Despite a disappointing end to the season, Lipinski posted a remarkable sophomore season and is projected to be selected in this year’s NHL draft. Lipinski’s draft projection varies across different player-ranking charts.
Lipinski ranks 80th on TSN’s Craig Button’s Top 100 player ranking list. The Hockey Writers project Lipinski to be selected between picks 85-95. The Head of North America Scouting for Rec Scouting Gabe Foley had Lipinski as an honorable mention on his top 100 ranking and placed him at 117.
“Every time I’ve watched him, I’ve been wowed by the grit and determination that he brings into his game,” Foley said. “He has decent size and speed to go along with it, and he uses it to be a great forechecker to cut off his opponents. He makes plays happen in the diary areas of the ice. He’s really fearless, and I think that’s the trait that some of the great Arizona hockey players have.”
Regardless of where or when he gets drafted, Lipisnki plans to return for another season with the Giants. After taking a massive leap in his second year, the expectations are very high for the upcoming season.
Lipinski, an assistant captain for the team last year, continues to grow both as a leader and player. He will play top-line minutes yet again and will compete against some of the best young hockey players in the world. A confident player who is eager to take the next step, Lipinski knows the value he brings to a team.
“While they’re (an NHL team) getting a big guy who can make plays, who is good in the face-off dot,” Lipinski said. “I think it’s hard to come by big skilled forwards and I think I’m that, definitely.”