Should the Calgary Flames draft Tij Iginla? Inside the decision process

The 2024 NHL Draft in Las Vegas isn’t expected to produce any drama regarding its first overall selection, with the San Jose Sharks openly desiring Macklin Celebrini, the consensus top draft choice available.

But there are questions about who will be taken after the first overall selection, including whether or not the Calgary Flames should draft Tij Iginla, son of Hockey Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla, at ninth overall. Or if he’ll even be available should the Flames get the chance.

“Midway through the season, I thought if Calgary wanted him they could trade down to get him. Then it seemed like they could get him around their pick around the spring. Now it seems like they may need to trade up to get him,” an NHL scout said.



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Tij was once projected as a middle first-round pick in this year’s NHL Draft. But there’s a belief that he could be taken higher as his draft stock has risen, thanks largely to his performance at the 2024 Under-18 World Championship in Finland where he scored six goals and 12 points in six games. Tij also scored 47 goals and 84 points in 64 games this season with the Kelowna Rockets, outscoring his father in his draft year (33 goals, 71 points in 72 games) with the Kamloops Blazers. The Flames may want a forward of Iginla’s ilk, but they won’t be alone in a top 10 draft order featuring teams starved for talent.

“He has done everything he needs to do on the ice to put himself in the position he’s in,” Flames amateur scouting director Tod Button said.

The similarities between Tij and Jarome are notable. Barring something drastic, both men can say they were first-round draft picks and grew up as scoring wingers from Western Hockey League teams. Button pointed out how Tij’s skating posture resembles Jarome’s, even how he adjusted his elbow pads and gloves in a similar manner. When The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler compared both players in March, he said Tij’s snapshot was similar to Jarome’s (and fellow Hockey Hall of Famer Joe Sakic’s).

But there are a handful of differences, too. Jarome grew up as a right winger while Tij may be destined for the left side at the pro level; he’s listed as a center ahead of the draft. Jarome played more aggressively than his son did, while Tij has flashed more shiftiness and skill, according to Button. Button also feels there are subtle differences in both men’s shots, though Tij’s is still a strong asset in his game.

“I don’t think I’ve seen Tij do a lot of one-timers,” Button said. “And if you think about Jarome, that one-timer, that shot, that was one thing that stood out.”

Flames fans hope the younger Iginla will be the pick at No. 9 and GM Craig Conroy will be pressured to draft him. But it remains to be seen whether Iginla is the player they want. Conroy, at least publicly, has kept his intentions close to his chest.

“What we’ve always said is we just have to put everybody in the right order, put them where they belong,” Conroy said during an interview on Hockey Night in Canada’s After Hours in April. “And then when we start the draft, we’ll go down the list. And when we pick, whoever’s on the list we’ll take the best player.”

Around the league, there are NHL teams convinced that Calgary both will and won’t take him if he’s available.

One concern for Calgary, taking the last name out of the equation, is that Iginla is an average-sized scoring winger. It’s a profile they’ve acquired a lot in the draft recently. Their system is bare at center and especially on defense. Some draft experts wonder if Iginla might only be a slightly taller, more skilled version of Matt Coronato — whom the Flames took 13th overall in the 2021 NHL Draft — and if it’ll be more beneficial for the Flames to look elsewhere.

“They have to take a defenseman, especially in this draft that’s full of great blueliners,” said one scout.

Button previously said that the team can’t just take Tij because of his dad, but also thinks he wouldn’t be a “reach” if taken by the team. However, Button has admitted that it can be difficult to remain completely objective over Tij while scouting him because of their familiarity with his family. At the beginning of the season, Conroy even instructed his staff to pretend Tij had a different name while scouting him.

“I’m not telling you it’s easy, because it’s not and I’m trying to be objective,” Button said. “But then when he does something special in a game, you get really excited.”

And being objective over NHL offspring isn’t a problem specific to the Flames.

“I’ve been around NHL organizations where a guy on your staff’s son is up for the draft. It’s an uncomfortable situation. You can all try to act professional and pretend you’re trying to be objective, but it’s in the air. You’re worried about speaking your mind in meetings. You’re worried if we draft this guy is the dad going to be in the coach’s ear about ice time. I prefer it when the father just says please don’t take my kid” said a veteran NHL scout.

The comparisons to his father won’t cease for Tij once he joins an NHL team, and the pressure could amplify if selected by the city where Jarome became a legend. The Flames know this well and anticipate that Tij won’t be unfamiliar with those expectations thrust upon him. But they will likely lean on his dad, a special adviser to Conroy, to help manage those expectations.

“I think he’ll start out as Jarome’s son and then the goal for him would be people saying ‘Oh yeah, that’s Tij’s dad’,” Button said.

“It’s not like he hasn’t grown without the name on his back. I think he’s grown up to the pressure. Is there added pressure being in Canada and in Calgary? Probably. But I don’t think it’ll faze the kid because he’s going to face that wherever he goes. Everybody’s going to have those same expectations. It’ll be up to us to support him properly to make sure there are realistic expectations.”

In the meantime, those expectations will continue to rage. The Flames also have more pre-draft meetings and scouting to consider before making a decision that will have their entire fan base talking.

(Photo of Tij Iginla: Dale Preston / Getty Images)

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