With a pause in his stride and a flick of his wrist, Jaden Lipinski offered an idea of his growing comfort level in this second season for him with the Vancouver Giants.
After jumping down on the right side by a stretch pass from Giants defender Tom Cadieux, Lipinski pulled the puck back between his feet as he sliced over the lip of the crease and cut it back on the other side past Everett netminder Braden Holt before what ended Vancouver’s only goal in a 4-1 loss on Saturday.
The effort between the legs is something that we have come to see more often at top hockey levels in the past two or three years. It’s still a game that takes a certain amount of trust and Lipinski choosing to pull it out of his tricks bag so early in the WHL season should be a positive for Giants fans.
The svelte center from Scottsdale, Arizona, made strides last season with his game all the way through and through the playoffs, and he looks poised to play an even bigger role with the current incarnation of Giants. He was arguably Vancouver’s best player in opening weekend with a 4-3 shootout loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds and then Everett’s setback, including that total.
“I tried not to be flashy,” Lipinski, 17, said. “It was just a way of going against the grain. I feel like if I hadn’t gone through the legs, he would have had it. It was instinct and I’m glad it worked.
“When I’m older, I feel like I’m confident in maybe trying those kinds of things. I think it definitely has to do with that.”
Giants coach Michael Dyck, who agreed that the effort between the legs suits Lipinski’s current confidence, added: “It was a great move. In that case, he pulled it from side to side and opened things.”
The Giants first encountered Lipinski at a tournament in Scottsdale while checking in with his linemate, Colton Langkow, who had selected Vancouver in the fourth round of the 2019 WHL Draft. Lipinski had passed in the draft and Vancouver left him to their protected add list.
He took the Giants out of training camp last season, starting with receiving minutes on the fourth line. His ice age would increase as the year progressed. He had eight goals and 17 points in 68 regular season games and then one goal and four points in 12 playoff games.
He spent much of the off-season at home in Arizona and says he’s gained about 10 pounds. He lists himself at 208 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame.
“He’s bigger and stronger and I think a step faster,” Dyck said. “We’ve seen improvement in him over the past year and a big part of it was coming out of his shell. I think everyone goes through a transition as a rookie and especially a kid who’s not used to the speed and size (in the WHL ).
“A big part of things is that trust. Once he was sure he belonged here and could play here… you definitely saw the growth after Christmas and in the play-offs he went to another level.”
Lipinski added: “Having a year under your belt definitely helps. The speed of the game is a bit slower. And there are guys you’ve played with for the past year and you have some chemistry.”
Due to his December birthday, this is Lipinski’s first NHL Draft year. With his size and the way his game is trending, he should get some interest. He says he keeps that out of his mind.
“I’m just trying to focus on one game at a time. We’ll see where I end up, but I am just enjoy my teammates and enjoy junior hockey,” he said.