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Iginla surges up draft lists with an assist from dad


Tij Iginla is No. 10 in the latest draft prospect ranking released by TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie, which is based on a poll of 10 scouts.

The Calgary Flames own the ninth-overall pick, so it looks like there's a chance the Kelowna Rockets forward may land in the same city where his dad, Jarome Iginla, became a star and served as captain. He'd certainly welcome the chance to follow in his father's footsteps. 

"It sounds like it'd be a lot of fun and be a cool opportunity," the 17-year-old from Lake Country, B.C. said. "Obviously, I don't know exactly how things are going to shake out and I try not to speculate too much, but yeah, I know they're there at pick nine and I guess we'll just have to see how it goes. But that would be definitely pretty cool."

The elder Iginla, now a special advisor to Flames general manager Craig Conroy, played a record 1,219 games for the Flames and also owns the all-time franchise marks for goals (525) and points (1,095). 

The younger Iginla, who was traded from the Seattle Thunderbirds to Kelowna last summer, scored 47 goals and piled up 84 points in 64 Western Hockey League games this season. He added nine goals and 15 points in 11 playoff games and then racked up six goals and 12 points in seven games at the under-18 World Championship en route to a gold medal with Team Canada. 

As a result, he's rocketed up draft lists and may not even be on the board when the Flames pick. TSN director of scouting Craig Button has Iginla all the way up at No. 4 in his latest list of top prospects.  

"That's pretty special to hear," he said. "From the beginning of the year I've moved up a lot of lists, and that's kind of been cool for me to see. [My] vision that I kind of had at the beginning year was to try to chip away at some of those lists and keep improving in all areas of the game. It's been a lot of fun and should continue to be fun going into the draft."

As he prepares for next week's scouting combine in Buffalo, Iginla spoke to TSN about how his game evolved this season. He also shared the best advice he's received from his Hall of Fame dad. The following is an edited version of the conversation.  

TSN: How did you make such a big jump this year? 

Tij Iginla: Just being able to be at home here [Lake Country is a short drive from Kelowna] and working with my dad in the garage or the shooting area every day, just trying to keep honing my skills, stick handling, shooting, all those things, makes such a difference on the ice. So, I think just getting to be at home has been really good for me to keep on improving. But, at the same time, also just maturing my game as a whole and getting to play in all situations has helped me a lot as well. 

TSN: What made you so effective at that the under-18 World Championship?

Tij Iginla: That was something super special to be a part of. We had a great group and to get the opportunity to go all the way over to Finland, which is the furthest I've been, was really cool. Coming out of the WHL playoffs, playing a strong team in the Prince George Cougars, helped prepare me for the type of hockey that I was going to see over there. I had some great linemates, great guys to play with, so that definitely helped as well. To go through the journey we did as a team, and ultimately to cap it off with a win in the gold-medal game, is something I'll never forget. 

TSN: You also excelled in the WHL playoffs. What's the key to handling pressure? 

Tij Iginla: I know how important it is to be someone who, when the games are bigger, you show up in those games, and that's something that I try to do. I feel like a lot of players can be good in the easy games, but the big games are kind of where it counts. I just try to prepare as best as I can for those games and try to be ready to go out and work as hard and compete as hard as I can. That's my mindset going into those big games.

TSN: After winning the gold medal, it was really cool to see you posing for a picture alongside your dad. What's the best advice he's given you? 

Tij Iginla: That's a tough one, because he's definitely given me tons of advice. I've learned so much from him over the years. One of the big things is just to believe that everything's going to work out. Wherever you are today, if you're facing adversity or whatever it is, just keep things in perspective and believe you're here for a reason and everything's going to work out for the best.  

TSN: How are you similar to your dad? 

Tij Iginla: It's a little hard for me to say because what I can remember is how he played in the back part of his career. From what I saw then, I think he was a pretty big shooter, pretty good goal scorer, and that's something I try to do myself. I've definitely learned a lot from him in those areas over the years. So, I'd say that would be one of the big things. I didn't get to see his prime live, which would've been cool, but I'll go with some of the shooting things he's taught me. 

TSN: How has he helped you in that department? 

Tij Iginla: He's helped me so much with my shot. He knows a lot, but at the same time it's just getting out there and getting the reps in. So, getting to be back home, like I was talking about earlier, is something I've been super grateful for. We're out there pretty much every day working on things. He's passing me pucks, giving me one timers, things like that, so talking about the mechanics and stuff, but also then just getting in the reps as well. 

TSN: You missed your dad's prime, but what's the best story you heard about him? 

Tij Iginla: The golden goal [at the 2010 Olympics], you hear about that quite a bit. I was there, but I don't quite remember it. That would be cool to experience now that I'm a little bit older. That one is probably the No. 1. 

TSN: What is your most vivid memory of your dad when you were growing up around the game?

Tij Iginla: We were living in Colorado when he was playing there and he was kind of an older, veteran guy, and he became pretty good buddies with Nathan MacKinnon. I remember one Thanksgiving we had him over to the house for dinner, so that was pretty cool. That's something that I can remember pretty vividly. 

TSN: What stood out being around MacKinnon back then? 

Tij Iginla: It was cool. He was just super down to earth and such a nice guy. I was still pretty young, still sitting at the kid table for Thanksgiving. Yeah, that was pretty special. 

TSN: What's the biggest difference between you and your dad? 

Tij Iginla: Ah, I don't know. I think we're definitely similar in a lot of ways. In his era, he had to be a little bit tougher and kind of run up his penalty minutes a little bit more, so I guess I'll go with that for a difference. 

TSN: You had a fight this year. Has he given you any advice on that side of the game? 

Tij Iginla: Yeah, he's given me a little bit of advice there as well. Just a couple techniques and stuff, but nothing too crazy. 

TSN: What's it like learning from your dad while also trying to make a name for yourself? 

Tij Iginla: I'll hear a lot of questions about it, but I wouldn't trade it for the world, you know, having him in my corner and getting to learn everything from him. So that's been something I'm super grateful for. So, if I have to take an extra questions about him then I'll do it.  

TSN: Do you hear about it from players on other teams? 

Tij Iginla: Yeah a decent amount. I hear a lot about that and a lot about how I'm just here because of my dad and stuff like that. But it's nothing that I'm not used to. 

TSN: Does it fire you up at all? 

Tij Iginla: Yeah, sometimes it fires me up a little bit. But it's nothing that I haven't heard before, so they got to come up with some new ones. 

TSN: Who do you model your style after in the current game? Button sees you as a mix of Colorado's Gabe Landeskog and Boston's Brad Marchand

Tij Iginla: That's a nice compliment to hear. Obviously, those are two pretty spectacular NHL players, so that's really cool to hear. I try to look at the top guys in the league and the most dominant guys and try to study them and take what I can. A guy I like to look at would be MacKinnon. He's so unreal in so many areas of the game. He's such a great offensive mind, but he can be trusted in all three zones. He's just super well-rounded. So, guys like him and [Connor] McDavid and kind of all those top guys in the league, I try to study them and be as much like them as I can. 

TSN: Your dad was picked 11th overall in the 1995 NHL draft. Will you have some bragging rights if you get picked higher? 

Tij Iginla: Yeah, maybe a little bit, but he had a pretty strong career as well. The draft only means so much. I'll have to start chipping away at those other achievements as well if I want to get those bragging rights.  

TSN: What was your goal at the start of the year in terms of the draft? 

Tij Iginla: Nothing too specific. I try to keep the focus on just getting better and becoming the best player I can be. However the draft shakes out, wherever I do go, I'm just kind of trusting that will be the best spot for me and then whatever happens, happens. I don't want to be like, 'Oh I need to be this spot or this spot,' because at the end of the day the draft only means so much. It's kind of about what you do after, so to keep it in perspective is important for me as well.