Owen Tippett Steps Up for the Flyers with a Newfound Identity
By Jacob Stoller,
Philadelphia Flyers forward Owen Tippett was unclear on the game he had to play to be effective in the NHL. A trade and a new coach gave him an answer.
Owen Tippett’s former teammates with the Florida Panthers always believed in his talents.
“I thought he was an unbelievable player when I got to play with him,” said Sam Bennett. “He was so close to really breaking out. I just knew it was a matter of time for him.”
Brandon Montour, Tippett’s off-season training buddy, agrees.
“He’s a big-time player — a big boy who can skate like the wind,” Montour said. “He’s got a heck of a shot. He’s smart on both sides of the ice, and he plays hard. He’s got all the tools.”
Drafted 10th overall by Florida in 2017, Tippett made the Panthers’ roster in the shortened 2020-21 season. But his first two years in Sunrise were rocky and riddled with inconsistency.
A streaky scorer who was as hot and cold as they come, Tippett struggled to carve out a consistent role on a Panther team that was atop the NHL’s standings. His usage fluctuated from the first line to the fourth line, not to mention an AHL re-assignment 85 games into his NHL career — and his confidence was fleeting.
But as Bennett points out, the nature of Tippett’s struggles is common among young talented prospects.
“Once you find some clarity and a role for yourself, that’s really when you can start to have a lot of success,” said Bennett.
And Tippett found that clarity in his first full season with the Philadelphia Flyers, who acquired him in the Claude Giroux trade last spring.
The 23-year-old right wing has already recorded career highs in goals, assists and points through 46 games — his 14 goals and 14 assists put him on pace to threaten a 50-point season. He’s also becoming a staple in the top six and on the power play. Tippett looks like the player many hoped he’d become.
So, what’s changed?
Tippett said it boiled down to him finally understanding the type of game he needed to play to succeed in the NHL.
“For me, that’s playing a power game,” Tippett told The Hockey News. “It’s a style of game that I hadn’t played when I was growing up, and it was a little bit of an adjustment. But the coaching staff here has done a good job pushing that on me and making it known that that’s the kind of game they want me to play.”
To Tippett, playing a “power” game means weaponizing his 6-foot-1, 207-pound frame and speed to be relentless in pursuing and protecting the puck in all three zones.
It started when Flyers coach John Tortorella challenged Tippett ahead of the Flyers’ final pre-season game.
“He said, ‘I want you to show me who you are and tell me what kind of player you are,’ ” Tippett recounted. “Then he said, ‘I want everything to finish at the blue paint. Take everything to the net.’ ”
“I kind of realized this is the type of game I can play, and I have the tools to do it,” Tippett said.
Tippett said Tortorella and his coaching style have helped him a great deal.
“He keeps everyone accountable and tells everyone how it is,” Tippett said. “It’s so black and white, and it’s a good thing. If he wants something out of a guy, he’s going to tell him.”
Tippett has even cemented himself into Tortorella’s good books, which doesn’t appear easy to do from an outsider’s perspective.
“You can see he’s just about to bust out — and not just the offensive part,” Tortorella told reporters after the Flyers’ 5-3 win over the Washington Capitals on Jan 11. “He’s been a more consistent power forward. Winning puck battles, carrying the puck on the boards, getting pucks in when he needs to, chasing them down.”
In Florida, the big battle for Tippett was finding ways to contribute even on nights when he wasn’t scoring. But by honing in on those skills Tortorella spelled out, Tippett is no longer invisible in games where he doesn’t end up on the box score.
During a recent four-game point slump between Jan. 16 and Jan. 21, Tippett was still one of Philadelphia’s most effective players — recording a team-high 5-on-5 Scoring Chance For Percentage (63.16 percent), along with the third most scoring chances (11) and the fourth most hits (nine), according to Natural Stat Trick.
“I think the biggest thing was just kind of finding that steady roll,” Tippett said. “But it’s also a mindset thing too, right? If you think you belong at that level when you’re going into a game, it makes it a lot easier than trying to kind of prove yourself every day.”
Tippett’s newfound confidence has allowed him to grip his stick a little looser and relax. And he looks poised to play an important role as the Philadelphia Flyers look to restore their reputation as a perennial playoff contender in the future.
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