By Joshua Boyd / NCDCHockey.com
The first year of NCAA hockey for Rockets Hockey Club alum Sam Lipkin could not have gone any better. He was named the ECAC Rookie Of The Year and to the All-Rookie Team, and he helped Quinnipiac first win the ECAC Hockey Championship and then later, the ultimate prize, the NCAA National Championship.
As an added bonus, he returned to his third Arizona Coyotes NHL Development Camp, after having been selected following his 2020-21 season in the NCDC with the Rockets. He split that season between the Rockets (taking part in the Hub City Tampa event) and the USHL’s Chicago Steel.
“I mean, it’s pretty great. Obviously going in your freshman year, that’s not exactly what you expect right right out the get-go,” said Lipkin, a 2003-born native of Philadelphia. “It’s been unbelievable. It’s been a great experience enjoying it with my teammates, and the whole Quinnipiac community.
“Obviously, to get those [individual] awards, you have to have great linemates. I had Collin Graf, who also played in the NCDC [with the Junior Bruins] and Jacob Quillan. With those two unbelievable players, we kind of made the game easy for each other,” said Lipkin. “It’s obviously an honor to receive those types of awards, especially if you look at former Quinnipiac players like Sam Anas and Matthew Peca who have won All-Rookie Team honors, it was kind of a goal of mine to try to get those accolades.”
‘I honestly couldn’t be happier with how that month and a half went and I thought it was great for my development. I can’t thank the Rockets enough.’ – Sam Lipkin, Rockets Hockey Club (2020-21)
The Coyotes have been excited about Lipkin for a few years now, having drafted him after he posted 25 points in 19 NCDC games and added 11 points in his first 30 games with the Steel, played on either side of his time in the NCDC that year. He also helped the Steel win the 2021 Clark Cup.
Lipkin was drafted 223rd overall in the seventh round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, a steal of a pick when you consider what he’s done the last two years. First, he captained the 2021-22 Steel and posted 71 points prior to moving on to this past Rookie of the Year and NCAA Championship season in 2022-23.
“I had an opportunity to go play in the Coyotes organization in 2023-24, but I made the decision to come back for my sophomore season. After a long thought process, and after winning the National Championship, I thought it best to come back to school,” Lipkin added. “Obviously, playing on TV in those big events is going to catch the eye of the National Hockey League, but my focus is on coming back to Quinnipiac.”
Lipkin did mention that he is planning to potentially turn pro for 2024-25, especially after a third straight positive experience at the Coyotes Development Camp earlier this summer.
“It was really good. Obviously, the first couple of years you’re kind of the new guy just trying to figure it out. But this year, it was the most comfortable I’ve felt. I thought I was able to help other guys, the young rookies coming up through the system,” said Lipkin. “I was able to go out there a couple of weeks early to skate with their skating coach and train with their development staff, and that was honestly great for me. It kind of ramped up my summer a little bit before coming to school. So yeah, it was great, and also, it’s always awesome going out to Arizona and being around the organization.”
The 2020-21 season is long going to be remembered by those who lived through it – schedule disruptions, quarantines, playing in front of empty or near-empty NHL and other arenas. The USPHL was unique in being proactive to make absolutely sure their NCDC (and many Premier and Elite) teams could get in a full season by moving the bulk of operations to Wesley Chapel, Fla. There, players were housed at a mostly otherwise empty golf and tennis resort, Saddlebrook, and they were restricted in travel between the resort and the rinks to minimize contact with outsiders. Each NCDC team got in 21 games at Hub City Tampa, and Lipkin still has great memories of that experience.
“I started in Chicago playing on a pretty star-filled lineup and I was not really playing. The NCDC decided to do [Hub City Tampa] and they were the only real league playing at the time, so it was huge for my development to go back into the Chicago system,” said Lipkin. “I had known [Rockets Midget Coach] Noel Rubin for a long time, and the Rockets coach at that time Jason Kersner reached out to and talked to our Steel GM and we decided it was the best move for me. I honestly couldn’t be happier with how that month and a half went and I thought it was great for my development. I can’t thank the Rockets enough.”
He also remarked on how it helped prepare him for the college life a little bit in terms of learning to live with teammates and live on a regimented daily schedule.
“I kind of got a little dorm experience pre-college. I lived with three other guys and the team culture was unbelievable that year,” said Lipkin. “We had a really good lineup, with a lot of guys who could be playing in higher leagues and a lot of Division I commits. I thought the adjustment was really good, and beneficial, playing that around of games and getting regular practices in while also living an independent lifestyle, away from home. Yes, it was a pretty crazy year, but it was not bad living on a golf course and playing hockey.”
Even with so many accomplishments so far in his career, Lipkin is not done focusing on getting even better, just as any player would want regardless of level.
“It’s just a combination of things – getting faster, getting bigger and getting stronger are what I looked at. I think it’s just confidence-wise, being able to do what I want to do on a nightly basis and be consistent and building those pro habits before pro hockey, those are all things I’m looking forward to this coming season,” added Lipkin. “I want to be able to put myself in a position to play pro hockey after this year.”
The Coyotes would also love to see Lipkin have another huge step forward kind of season at Quinnipiac, even coming off so many giant leaps since COVID reared its ugly head in 2020.
“Honestly, I talk with them every week. They have a great development staff, and both [Director of Player Development] Lee Stempniak and [Skill Development Coach] Nathaniel Brooks have taken me under their wing. They’ll even come in a few times during the year for video review, and they’re always giving you feedback,” said Lipkin. “It’s nice to have that kind of support from an NHL team.”
The NCDC congratulates Sam Lipkin on a fantastic 2022-23 season and wishes him and the Quinnipiac Bobcats the best of luck in 2023-24 and beyond.