Tij Iginla goes through fitness testing June 8 at the NHL Scouting Combine in LECOM Harborcenter. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu

NHL Draft: If Sabres don’t trade 11th pick, Tij Iginla could be strong choice

LAS VEGAS – As the son of a legend, 2024 NHL Draft prospect Tij Iginla deals with extra attention, expectations and pressure – at least from the outside.

Iginla’s father, Jarome, a former Calgary Flames star, scored 625 goals during his 20-year Hall of Fame career. The elder Iginla, who always seems to have a smile etched on his face, is regarded as one of hockey’s all-time good guys.

There’s a lot that accompanies being Jarome Iginla’s son. Still, Tij, 17, embraces it. He understands he’s lucky.

“Having him and my family, the pros heavily outweigh the cons,” the winger said June 8 following fitness testing at the NHL Scouting Combine in LECOM Harborcenter in Buffalo. “So, yeah, I think it’s been good for me to be around the game as much as I have been.”

Any pressure, Tij said, comes from within.


“I want to succeed because it’s what I want to do and my dream,” he said. “I try to block out the outside noise kind of as much as I can.”

Iginla’s dynamic play with the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets last season generated extra noise. A strong argument can be made he showcased more development in 2023-24 than any draft-eligible player.

As a member of a deep Seattle Thunderbirds team in 2022-23, he regularly sat out as a healthy scratch, including during their run to the WHL title.

Then getting traded to Kelowna, where Iginla’s family lives, ignited his junior career.

He jumped from scoring six goals and 18 points in 48 games in 2022-23 to 47 goals and 84 points in 64 contests.

What happened? Iginla said sitting out games fueled him.

“During my 16-year-old year with Seattle, I think I went through a little bit of adversity,” he said. “It’s kind of the first time in my life where I was getting healthy scratched, things like that. I think I just tried to use it as fuel and motivation, as much as I could and just kind of, yeah, just use it more to just motivate me and kind of put everything I have into it and try to have a big summer.

Naturally, Iginla’s draft stock skyrocketed. NHL Central Scouting ranks him ninth among North American skaters. The Sabres, who own the 11th pick, spoke to him at the combine.

Dan Marr, the director of Central Scouting, said the 6-foot, 191-pound Iginla is “one of those dynamic, proactive offensive forwards.”

“He will always pop in a game,” he said. “What he’s done this year is he’s learned to manage his risk-reward play, the decisions that he makes and the way he should go and when he should kind of back off a little bit or not go. But he’s a dangerous offensive threat. He’s got NHL DNA. He grew up around the NHL. …

“So he’s got all the tools, the smarts, and it’s just his style of play that makes him pop out. He can finish. He’s great at getting to the middle and getting open, and he’s got a quick-release shot, an accurate shot. He’s a goal scorer in today’s NHL.”

When the NHL buyout period opens today, the Sabres could use one on winger Jeff Skinner, who has three seasons remaining on his eight-year, $72 million contract.

General manager Kevyn Adams last week refused to get into specifics about Skinner, who has played 1,006 regular-season games but never appeared in a playoff contest. He also did not squash the rumors.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman last week called a buyout “a possibility,” igniting speculation about the 14-year veteran’s future.

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