Kelowna Rockets forward Tij Iginla (left) celebrates his second period goal with Andrew Cristall (middle) and Gabriel Szturc (right) in the team’s 6-3 win against Swift Current on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at Prospera Place. (@Kelowna_Rockets/X)
Every year, come draft day, you’ll notice a couple of prospects being taken by a team with some familiar surnames who turn out to be the offspring of hockey royalty. Sadly, despite having the same blood coursing through their veins, most fail to ever live up to their fathers’ accolades.
This year may be a different story, though. In the 2024 NHL Draft, there will be two prospects with profound NHL lineage that will be worth keeping an eye on.
The first goes by the name Tij Iginla, who you may have guessed is the son of the former Calgary Flames Hall of Fame winger Jarome Iginla. Over the course of his 20 year NHL career, Jarome was able to tally 625 goals and 675 assists for a total of 1,300 regular season points. Additionally, it was Jarome’s gritty style of play (that saw him come to be respected by everybody who did not live in Edmonton) that helped him collect every offensive award over the years that the NHL could dream up. Whether it be the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, the Art Ross Trophy, the Ted Lindsay Award, the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award, or the NHL Foundation Player Award, Jarome managed to collect them all. And that isn’t even mentioning the multiple Olympic Gold medals he won that are probably sitting on his mantle right now.
So it should go without saying that Tij will have some pretty big skates to fill once an NHL club selects him this summer. But, it is a task he seems up for, given that he has already won a Western Hockey League Championship with the Seattle Thunderbirds last year and is currently scoring at a rate of 1.15 points per game for the Kelowna Rockets this season. That’s right, through just 20 games played so far this year, Tij has totaled 15 goals and eight assists for 23 points. If that wasn’t impressive enough, I’ll have you know that if he continues on this pace, Tij is projected to finish this season with a very respectable 51 goals and 27 assists for 78 points!
Now, while you may see a lot of similarities to their games, make no mistake about it: Tij is his own man. And in saying that, I’m sure he is looking forward to being drafted to prove just that. Currently, most mock drafts have Tij going somewhere in the second round, but with his stock surging right now, the sky is the limit, so we will just have to wait and see where he ends up.
Next up is another player from a noble bloodline. And that is Aatos Koivu, the son of former NHL’er Saku Koivu. Like Jarome Iginla, Saku saw his career span much longer than most, playing in 18 NHL seasons and totaling over 1,100 games. During that time, Saku compiled 255 goals and 577 assists for 832 regular season points.
Since it’s been ten years since Saku last laced up the skates, his son, who is also a center, now finds himself of age to be drafted and is hoping for an NHL team to come calling, much like they did for his dad did back in the first round of the 1993 Entry Draft.
Only Aatos appears to be facing an uphill battle, seeing that he is currently being overlooked because of the immense amount of talent coming out of Finland this year. But, I assure you this is a gross oversight by the masses because Aatos has been gifted Saku’s handle and finishing ability. To prove this, all you have to do is look at the numbers he has been able to put up this season. While playing for the famed TPS’s U18 Team, Aatos did not appear challenged, scoring 15 points in 15 games. So, the franchise recently moved him up to their U20 Team, where in five games played, Aatos has improved upon his previous one-point-per-game average to the toll of him now netting five goals and three assists for eight points which brings his average to 1.6 points per game versus what was supposed to be more challenging competition.
If Aatos can continue with his recent success, I believe he will not only have his name called this summer by an NHL team but very well could be considered a steal of this draft class.
That’s why, with all this being said, I believe both Iginla and Koivu 2.0 will have all the means necessary to step out of their father’s shadow and embark on their own journey to greatness.