Top 25 Under 25, #22: Alexey Lipanov could be a gem for the Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s third-round pick is Raw Charge’s 22nd out of 25 players under 25.
The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the RawCharge writing staff. Four writers, plus a special guest, ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2017 in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked, plus Honorable Mentions.
Alexey Lipanov was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in the third round, 76th overall. The Russian center from Moscow is 17 years old and will be playing for the Barrie Colts for the 2017-2018 OHL season.
Lipanov has been lauded as an underrated player who could blossom into something special as he ages. He was among the youngest players drafted at this season’s draft and was still seen as a player who could’ve gone higher.
'Open up ice quickly' type of speed that can break down defenders and leave them defenseless. Also has excellent agility and quickness that he uses in tight areas to be elusive. Very smart and he makes good plays everywhere in the game and he competes hard. Has an excellent shot and is a hungry, determined player. Very responsible centre in the Russian mold of centres. - Craig Button, TSN
This quote from TSN Scout Craig Button had Lipanov up with names that went in the first round like Kailer Yamamoto, Klim Kostin, and Owen Tippet. However, this report from Button was from 2015 when Lipanov was 15 years old (that’s impressive). Button also issued a list of his top prospects in March which had Lipanov at 17.
Our Russian center’s drop during the draft was most likely due to his size. 170 pounds doesn’t wow a lot of people on a 6’0’’ frame, but Lipanov will likely grow, so size concerns could be dismissed. He also didn’t produce the eye-popping numbers you’d expect of a highly touted prospect, but he was also on a stacked VHL team that won their league’s championship.
You’ll also notice how I don’t have Lipanov ranked on the sidebar. My “NR” is not indicative to Lipanov not being good, it’s more aligned with the fact that I can’t rank a player that was just drafted without seeing more of him, and in this case in North America for Lipanov (the only draft pick from this draft class I do have ranked is Cal Foote at 24). Given that I haven’t seen a whole lot of him and that he hasn’t had the chance to adjust to the North American play-style, I felt as though it would be a little disingenuous to rank him until I get to see him in Barrie. I’m sure after a season in the OHL he will soar up my own personal ranking (I love Russian forwards).
Lipanov has been compared to Igor Larinanov and David Krejci in his style of play. He has the potential to be a top-six NHL two-way center. The ceiling on Tampa Bay’s young Russian is extremely high and there are many who think he won’t be held up in the OHL for long.
Additionally, Lipanov’s international experience is quite impressive. He was a member of the Russian Under-18 squad for 2015-2016, 2016-2017. It was at the 2015-2016 Under-18 tournament where Lipanov caught the attention of a lot of scouts in North Americad. While playing on a line with Andrei Svechnikov (who could challenge for the #1 pick in next year’s draft). The two Russian’s dominated and even though Lipanov only had 3 points (1 G, 2 A in 5 games) he impressed many with his play.
Next season Lipanov will be playing for the Barrie Colts of the OHL. Lucikly, he has some Russian compatriots (Kirill Nizhnikov and Andrei Svechnikov) to help him transition to North America a little easier. The ceiling is unbelievably high for Lipanov and he could easily explode in Barrie next season. However, expectations should be tempered a little, because projecting teenagers is a tricky business. Yzerman and his management team have been very patient with young forwards in the past. They won’t push them up the organizational depth chart unless they feel like they’re ready.
I’m exicted to see what Lipanov’s game can do in Barrie next season and beyond. He could become a solid #2 centerman in the future and you can never have enough centerman in your organization.
Lipanov’s skating has good acceleration and his top end speed is deceiving. He forces defenders to either challenge him or risk being skated around. Quick and agile on his edges enables Lipanov to make sharp cuts to pull a defender out of position or get himself out of sticky situations. However, he does occasionally have some balance and strength issues in the lower part of his body, but these should be handled in time as he grows into his body more and works out.
High Hockey IQ - Check
Exceptional Passing - Check
Strong Wrist Shot - Accurate and fast, but could be harder. The harder shot will come as he gains muscle with age
Miscellaneous - Scouting reports explain that Lipanov likes to keep the puck down low near the boards and make tight passes to teammates in good position. He doesn’t shoot as often as he should and prefers to be a playmaker.
Trusted by his Russian coaches to take important face-offs and penalty kills is impressive in a young player, especially Russian ones. Lipanov’s positioning and stick work in the defensive zone is exceptionally good for his age, but his hesitance to initiate contact could be worked out. Lipanov isn’t afraid to take a hit, but he would rather use his stick and skating ability to get the puck out of the defensive zone rather than separating the player from the puck with his body.
Note: Lipanov wears #10