Prospect Ramblings – Legendary Last Names

Aaron Itovitch

2024-02-05

As I try to block out as much noise around me as possible on my two-hour break by blasting Tyler Childers at a volume that will damage my ears long-term, I tried to think of a unique thing to talk about in my first prospect ramblings in a hot minute.

While talking about how desperately I want my team to draft one of Macklin Celebrini or Ivan Demidov would be fun, I thought it would be more fitting to address two very intriguing prospects in the 2024 draft, who both carry pedigree through their play, and the name on the back of their jersey.

The 2024 draft features two players, Tij Iginla, and Aatos Koivu, who will both have incredibly high expectations due to their superstar fathers. Iginla’s incredible WHL season will shoot him as high as top-10 on some rankings, and he will most certainly be a first-round pick, Koivu may fall into the mid-rounds due to his size and some holes in his game. Either way, there’s more reason to talk about them than just their elite last names.

While I am on a timer to finish this ahead of my next class, I will try to compare and contrast Tij and Aatos to their fathers, as well as attempting to project the type of NHLers they could become.

Tij Iginla, son of Hall-of-Famer Jarome:

While Tij will be the first of the Iginla kids to make the leap, it looks like the Iginla family won’t be leaving professional hockey anytime soon. Eldest daughter Jade is one of the most promising players in women’s hockey, and is doing incredible things for Brown University. She exudes the same swagger as her dad (so does Tij), despite their styles being very different. Youngest son Joe is a point-per-game player in the WHL at 15 (not technically an exaggeration, as he has two points through two games, but it is only two games), and will be a name to watch for the 2026 entry draft.

Tij, who has been incredibly productive for Kelowna of the WHL this year, with 60 points through 45 games as a draft-eligible, shares a few similarities with his father. He is still growing into his frame, but he is quite a unit at 6-0, 185, and shares some of the physical traits his father held while with the puck. He instinctively drives the net, and his smart hand-eye coordination leads to dangerous scoring chances pretty consistently.

Last night, with a three-point performance, he highlighted these skills:

While he didn’t have much space, his lightning-quick shot time allowed Kelowna to get the lead.

He doesn’t share pure off-puck physicality with his father however, and his role is more comparative to a perimeter offensive producer. He has thrown a few hits in the samples I’ve watched, but he doesn’t dictate his defense with physicality, rather using his IQ to cut up plays. On this play last night, where he earned a primary assist, he could have driven forward, but instead made a crafty backhand pass right into the slot (which probably should’ve been stopped by Spokane, but that’s a different story).

He isn’t necessarily big, but the way he utilizes his low centre of gravity makes him a threat:

It is not fair to Tij to expect him to play like his father. Jarome Iginla is representative of an entire era of hockey in my opinion, and his tenacious ‘dawg’ is just less common in the league today. What Tij brings to the table is different, with slick edges and high-end puckwork, and luckily for him, it may be a combination that will have more success in the league today than his father would have had.

Everybody loves a crafty offensive producer, and you can expect Jarome to appear in the stands in a few years when Tij makes his NHL debut. With Joe and Jade coming along, the next super-family in the league may already be developing itself.

Aatos Koivu, son of Saku, and nephew of Mikko:

Koivu likely won’t hold the first-round pedigree of Iginla, but he is an intriguing prospect in his own right. A right-shot centre, Koivu has been able to make his LIIGA debut this season, but has thrived in U20. His production has been great, with 27 points in 21 games, and he is becoming to come into his own as a forward. He has been able to score 15 goals in his 21 U20 games, which is a strong projection of the type of NHLer he can become. His skating is raw, and his pacing has lots of room for improvement, but when it comes to concrete offense, he can shoot, he can pass, he can stickhandle, and he can score.

Expecting Aatos to become an NHL captain like his father and uncle may be jumping the gun, but the kid’s release is absolutely incredible (feels really good to call these players kids since I’ve officially entered my D+1!).

Koivu is a long-term project, but his father also took 3 years to make the league after being drafted. The amount of pure offensive upside, combined with just a little bit of friendly nepotism may just be too much to pass up as the draft heads into the 3rd or 4th round. Could Montreal or Minnesota take a flyer on the legacy?

The Future is Bright

No matter what happens, it is exciting to see the players many of us grew up with returning to the league in some capacity. It will be a nice throwback when Saku and Jarome are shown on the jumbotron as proud parents. Or… maybe one of them pulls a Gordie Howe and laces them up in their 50s?

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