New ap­pre­ci­a­tion

Taste of NHL life leaves Steel­heads for­ward Tip­pett hun­gry for more

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - SPORTS -

After a brief taste of NHL life, Owen Tip­pett has a new ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the work re­quired to be suc­cess­ful at the next level.

On Sun­day evening, with many of his team­mates long gone after the Mississauga Steel­heads dropped a 4-2 de­ci­sion to the Hamil­ton Bull­dogs, the Florida Pan­thers prospect was putting him­self through a postgame work­out.

“They’re com­ing to the rink ready to work, it’s their job,” Tip­pett said of his Pan­thers team­mates. “You just want to be able to learn and un­der­stand that.

“They’ve ob­vi­ously been pros for a while and just want to see what it’ll take and what I should be do­ing to be play­ing at that pro level.”

Over the first six weeks of the NHL sea­son, Tip­pett ap­peared in seven games with the Pan­thers. He made his de­but on Oct. 17 in Philadel­phia and scored his first goal in a win against Ana­heim on Oct. 26.

The 18-year-old also watched six games as a healthy scratch to get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the sys­tems im­ple­mented by rookie head coach Bob Bough­ner.

On Nov. 6 the Pan­thers de­cided to re­turn the Peter­bor­ough, Ont., na­tive back to his OHL club to fur­ther his de­vel­op­ment. Tip­pett ad­mit­ted the 10game thresh­old be­fore his NHL en­try-level deal kicked-in was a dis­trac­tion at times while in Florida.

“I just knew the dead­line was the nine games sort of thing, we were just go­ing off of that,” he said. “I didn’t re­ally see it com­ing, I might’ve had an idea, ob­vi­ously it’s in the back of your mind with that nine games, but it was just some­thing that kind of hap­pened.

“It is (tough). Even when you’re there, you’re like, ‘Oh, am I in, am I not?’ Just be­ing a young guy, you just go day-by­day and work as hard as you can.”

Aside from his first NHL goal — a tap-in past Ducks goal­tender John Gib­son on a feed from Jamie Mcginn - Tip­pett said the thing he’ll re­mem­ber most about his first NHL stint was the op­po­nents he faced.

“I mean Pitts­burgh, you see what they’ve done the last cou­ple of years,” he said. “Tampa, they’re do­ing well this year. My first game in Philly was spe­cial, you just kind of see dif­fer­ent mo­ments.”

The six-foot-two, 204-pound for­ward re­turns to the OHL with the goal of im­prov­ing his de­fen­sive game.

Tip­pett reg­is­tered 44 goals in 60 games with the Steel­heads last sea­son, good for fifth in OHL scor­ing. His pre­cise shot and of­fen­sive in­stincts are what drew the Pan­thers to use the 10th se­lec­tion to draft Tip­pett last June. But as he looks to take the next step in his hockey ca­reer, his play in his own end needs work.

“(The Pan­thers) said ba­si­cally from the red line in (to the of­fen­sive zone) I’m OK. De­fen­sively they just want to see me com­plete my game,” Tip­pett said. “Just kind of switch to not be­ing so of­fen­sively minded. Ob­vi­ously you don’t al­ways get the step on a guy so you might shoot ear­lier or leave (the zone) a lit­tle bit early — you want to step back and take care of busi­ness in your end first.”

Tip­pett has reg­is­tered an as­sist in two games since his re­turn to the Steel­heads.

On top of work­ing on his de­fen­sive game, one of Tip­pett’s ob­jec­tives for the sea­son is to be a part of Team Canada at next month’s world ju­nior hockey cham­pi­onship in Buf­falo, N.Y. He’s al­ready worn the Cana­dian colours at un­der-17 and un­der18 tour­na­ments and is hop­ing that ex­pe­ri­ence will help land him a ros­ter spot on the un­der20 team.

“Any­time you get to be in the camp, the Hockey Canada ex­pe­ri­ence, it’s pretty spe­cial,” he said. “You want to take ad­van­tage of it ev­ery time and learn as much as you can and just see what they’re look­ing for in the group so when you go back next time, you know how to act.


Florida Pan­thers winger Owen Tip­pett (left) and Mon­treal Cana­di­ens cen­tre An­dreas Martin­sen bat­tle against the boards dur­ing NHL pre­sea­son hockey ac­tion Sept. 29 in Mon­treal.

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