Five things: In which I whine about Jankowski

Ryan Lambert
June 27 2012 07:32AM

1. What was that all about?

I am not, despite appearances, a hard-line guy about some stuff related to the rebuild.

I don't think, for example, that the Flames were necessarily wrong to trade the No. 14 pick for the No. 21 and a later second-round choice. If they thought their guy would be there at 21, and all indications are that Mark Jankowski was indeed their guy, then it was a very wise move to get something they wanted badly in addition to something that continues to help stack the prospect pool.

With that having been said, and with the caveat that I've obviously never seen this kid play one second of hockey in my life, my issue with the Jankowski pick is a simple question: "Why him?" If they really liked the building blocks of his game and whatever, I guess I get that, but based on multiple viewings for a kid playing high school hockey in Quebec? What development level is that? Gotta figure it goes Major Junior, Junior A, Junior B, high school, maybe? At best, it's clearly a third-tier league. Yes, he'll be playing against the best young Junior A players in North America next season in the USHL, but that's next season, and the Flames already drafted him.

He hung 90-something points on a bunch of kids who were probably cut by Junior B teams, so forgive me for not being impressed when the kids drafted around him played in the best junior development league in the world (the OHL) and the 

All indications are that he won't play NCAA hockey until he's 19 years old, which does little to encourage me. I've seen a lot of later freshmen in NCAA hockey and they're very good at that level. Here are a few who have panned out as professionals: Matt Read, Rene Bourque, Dustin Penner, Teddy Purcell, Justin Braun. All but Braun share the common trait of having gone undrafted, and Braun was taken exactly 180 picks after Jankowski in his draft year. It's a very rare thing indeed for a kid taken in the first round to come to college that late.

I guess the issue is that I'm — and call me crazy here — a best-player-available guy. I don't care if the Flames really like the makeup of this kid's body or game, I don't trust results against a bunch of kids in a league for which I literally can't find out if it's had another player drafted in the last two decades. Let alone in the first round.

Olli Maatta was available. He was right there. They did not take him. Maybe, hopefully, Jankowski pans out in half a decade or so, but that's literally the window here. We won't see results now, or three, or maybe even four years from now. Now, to be fair, I've heard the argument that Jankowski is one of the youngest players in the draft and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

It's just, you know, the risk involved. This kid could, as a guy whose background in basketball says, become the best player in this draft within 10 years. He could also turn out to be a very ugly pick we're laughing about years from now. You're rarely going to get sure things at No. 21 or even No. 14, but I'd prefer the Flames not actively court disaster.

Rebuilds aren't a fast process, I understand. I'd just like to be able to know whether it's headed in the right direction sometime before Nail Yakupov hits unrestricted free agency.

2. As for the rest of it

I actually didn't think that, apart from the noodle-scratching decision to let Darcy Regier push them around for the second consecutive draft, Jay Feaster and Co. did a bad job with the whole draft thing. Not that this is the be-all, end-all, but every one of their picks was in the Central Scouting top-66 for North American skaters. Not bad.

Patrick Sieloff is supposed to be very good indeed and makes the Jankowski pick far easier to stomach given that he was taken with the pick Calgary got for trading down. Jon Gillies, likewise, could prove a very good goaltending prospect; I'll be able to get a better look at him at Providence College this coming season, so if you want updates, I'm your man. I'll be able to provide the same for Jankowski, obviously, but that's some time away, isn't it?

3. The lack of a Comeau qualifying offer

Qualifying offers for restricted free agents were due earlier this week and Blake Comeau didn't get one, and I'm glad the team still wants to give him a go with a lower-priced deal than the $2.5 million he would have made.

He was clearly not very good last year, by pretty much any metric you care to examine, but you also have to be optimistic that he can improve slightly on his 3.6 shooting percentage from last season and start to approach 20 goals again. Fully reasonable to expect a lower cap hit on a one-year deal so he can prove himself to the team and also improve his position at the bargaining table for next summer.

Feaster at least sounds somewhat optimistic they can get a deal done before July 1, which would make it easier on Calgary. I'd be happy to see him back whatever the outcome because, even if he sucks again, hey, so will the rest of the team, so who cares?

4. One guy the Flames should pursue that won't excite anyone

Last week, Cam Charron had a post on Canucks Army about former Islander defenseman Dylan Reese becoming an unrestricted free agent. The numbers look pretty good especially given his quality of competition in a very tough division.

Now, there's not likely to be a line around the block for this guy and certainly he's not going to excite anyone, but at 28, he can be at least a serviceable situational defenseman for a team that, guess what, badly needs the help. Because no one has ever heard of the guy, and because he has less than 100 games played through his age-27 season, he will cost almost nothing, and Calgary should be interested.

This is the kind of player who will do nothing but a stat nerd feeding frenzy, but there's a reason nerds love the guy: he helps his team for dirt cheap. Plus, if Vancouver doesn't get him, Vancouver doesn't get him. That's also good.

5. Actually, one last thing on the draft

I'm also excited about the number of future college players Calgary took for the reason that I'm me and I firmly believe that college hockey has a better chance of turning later-round picks into serviceable pros. Major junior is very much a breeding ground for elite talent, which is something you can't say for NCAA hockey for a number of reasons I won't get into.

But if you wanna see those third-, fourth-, fifth-round picks, and so forth, make it in some capacity, they have a far better chance of doing so if they're playing against mostly young men in the NCAAs rather than against kids in Major Junior. Again, I'm not so sure about Jankowski, but I'm definitely glad to see the Flames go in that direction for the later picks. 

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Yer ol' buddy Lambert is handsome and great and everyone loves him. Also you can visit his regular blog at The Two-Line Pass or follow him on Twitter. Lucky you!
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#1 RexLibris
June 27 2012, 09:01AM
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Your opinion on the circumstances around the Jankowski pick are pretty much in sync with my own. No arguments here.

The only thing that I will take issue with in the current zeitgeist is the popular saying that the pick was high-risk/high-reward. It is indeed a high-risk pick. But I don't believe that Jankowski's talent level is such that it outweighs the rewards that were available had they selected Teravainen. Or perhaps even Maatta, but comparing a defender to a forward is tricky, and at the draft even more so.

Jankowski is perhaps a talented forward. More talented than the Flames' options at #14? I rather doubt that. More talented than the options at #21? Perhaps, maybe even likely. The next two years will speak volumes.

I think Flames fans are going to have to install internal filters to weed out the hyperbole from the progress reports that Weisbrod and Feaster are likely to put out. Both have a tendency for bombast and fans will likely want to hear an objective review of the player.

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#2 Gange
June 27 2012, 12:10PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Backes was drafted out of the USHL...which is where the Flames picked Gaudreau last year and where Jankowski plans to go and play in next season.

Meaning, even the USHL is step up from Steanstead prep college.

But again, I HIGHLY doubt the scouting staff was looking at the level of competition and thinking that it was representative of what is to be expected. They're most likely scouting on the skills he exhibits while playing in that league.

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#3 Justin Azevedo
June 27 2012, 12:34PM
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most likely scouting on the skills he exhibits while playing in that league

if that's the case that's terrifying. a player is always going to look better/more skilled while playing against inferior comp.

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#4 Frank
June 27 2012, 05:45PM
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Great article. I dont understand why Feaster is so intent on making life difficult for himself...although he DID seem to pass the buck to Wiesbrod. So if Jankowski doesnt pan out; I can already hear the presser.

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#5 Casey
June 27 2012, 09:27AM
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I'm okay with the Jankowski pick. I would rather have this team swing for the fences than pick another "safe" pick from the WHL that ends up playing on the 4th line in 5 years. 4th liners are easy to find. 1st line centres are not. Clearly the kid impressed on all levels. I don't think that they were just drafting him based on his point totals.

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#6 Gange
June 27 2012, 10:34AM
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The thing that bothers me about this Jankowski thing is that no one knows. NO ONE.

I hear many people complaining bitterly about this pick but who knows?

Do you think he fooled everyone looking at him? He even said that his interview process was intimidating with all the Flames people there. I have to assume there were not enough people against the idea to make it not happen. That must mean that the majority of the scouting staff were at least somewhat ok with this decision.

Would I have liked to see someone that slotted in sooner? Sure, but I'd rather have a strong farm and development system instead, thus having a competitive team in the long term. Even if Jankowski doesn't work out there are other picks that I'm pretty sure will.

I'm just saying that there were enough eyes on this for someone to stand up and say "This is a bad idea" if it truly was that bad of an idea. No matter what league he is from.

Also I'm pretty sure they're not just looking at how many points he put up in that league, but the skills he exhibited while doing it. Matter of fact I'm positive of that.

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#7 Sincity1976
June 27 2012, 08:33AM
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Jankowski played hockey in an obscure league in an obscure location and still had a concensus ranking of 41. That is pretty encouraging.

He is clearly a risk. But he clearly has big upside as well.

If you buy in to Weisbrod, a guy who consistently goes off the board. And if you buy into the concept that the Flames should build a characteristic template of what a Flames player should be then apply that to player acquisitions (part of developing a team identity.) And if you buy in to BPA in the draft. Then you have to be at least a little encouraged by this draft. The Flames, at the least, stuck to their guns.

Many people have been huge supporters of the above three. But now that push comes to shove are unhappy we didn't take the highest profile players available.

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#8 negrilcowboy
June 27 2012, 08:36AM
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i've heard the vinny the horse comparisons are poppin up. i hope weisbro and company don't try to convince us we got vinny in the draft. the level of comp is what has me scratching my head.

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#9 JF
June 27 2012, 08:57AM
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@negrilcowboy

No, Weisbrod and company aern't try to convince us we got vinny in the draft... they threw out a Niewendyk comp thou.

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#10 Baalzamon
June 27 2012, 09:08AM
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the pick I really like is Brett Kulak in the 4th round. Understated, do-it-all defenseman with upside drafted in the 4th. He was ranked 29th (!!!) by THW.

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#11 negrilcowboy
June 27 2012, 09:39AM
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does anyone truly know what the level of competion is comparable to? the ontario provincial league is usually where many college bound kids toil for a year instead of playing the 2nd or 3rd years of midget.100 points in high school versus 40 points in junior a are 2 different animals. chit i scored 50 goals one day alone shooting on my sister but failed to make the rep team.

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#12 Kent Wilson
June 27 2012, 09:56AM
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@negrilcowboy

Like Ryan noted, we can't even identify a player who has been drafted out the league Jankowski was playing in. It's really tough to get a handle on the quality of competition as a result.

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#13 negrilcowboy
June 27 2012, 10:18AM
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makes the selection even more mind boggling, i have conducted an exhaustive search and concluded the speculation might be 10 years. by that time many of the cooks in the kitchen might be residing at shadybrook retirement home. as harold ballard one stated to rick vaive"its easy to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys". doug weisbro didnt exactly have stellar results with the majic, and the stanley cup ring in my belief was right place at the right time.

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#14 Sworkhard
June 27 2012, 10:20AM
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@negrilcowboy

I don't think it really matters what the competition level is comparable to primarily because they evaluated this kid based on his raw skills and not his complete game. He's a pick based on projections of how good he'll be once he adds some muscle, gets some good coaching, etc.

I, like most people, am really curious to see how he does in the USHL next year. Whether he goes to college or the OHL after that will probably depend on his progression in the USHL and what his development timeline looks like after that. (Aka, if he's 6'4, 220lbs, and has the strength you'd expect at that weight by the end of the year, he might go the OHL route as he's probably closer to the NHL than expected, but if he's 6'4 and 195lb (more realistic), then college is probably the best route for him as the playing schedule is better for building strength and mass.

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#15 BurningSensation
June 27 2012, 11:00AM
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I unabashedly LOVE the Jankowski pick.

The chief concerns everyone mentions are (in no particular order);

- He was playing in a crap league - We could have had Tervainen or Maata - The pick reminds them of Chucko/Pelech/other previous 1st rnd disasters

To which I say;

- They scouted him heavily precisely because they were concerned about the competition he was facing, and he still climbed their draft board - Tervainen and Maatamay have warts we don't know about, or have ceilings lower than we expect. The entire draft was weak for scoring forwards, and if Tervainen was expected by scouts to be even an average top 6 forward he wouldn't have lasted till 18. Maata will likely be a safe steady 2nd pair D-Man, in the mold of Dana Murzyn. Whoopee!

Jankowski was a swing for the fences, huge upside (ranked 41 despite the crap league he played in) and with a ceiling potentially MUCH higher than the other guys. - Lastly, this pick is nothing like Pelech or Chucko, in that the knocks on Jankowski are not his tools, but rather his lack of competition.

Further thoughts;

- I bet Feaster had Sielof higher rated than Maata - I also bet he had good intel that someone else was targeting Jankowski late in the first/early 2nd. - The rest of Feasters draft was top notch (especially Kulka in rnd 4), so this wasn't the night of the living dead scouting staff

Whether or not Jankowsi ends up being a home run, or just a long fly ball, I for one appreciate that the Flames are FINALLY making the effort to draft for gamebreaking skill rather than knuckle dragging bangers.

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#16 everton fc
June 27 2012, 11:45AM
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Dylan Reese is a right-handed shot. He's a pretty sturdy guy.

He'd certainly be better to have on the right-side than Babchuk, and would come cheap, me thinks...

Good find, Ryan.

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#17 RKD
June 27 2012, 11:50AM
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I did some research and found out guys like Jeremy Roenick and David Backes were drafted straight out of HS.

Jankowski put up point totals of 73 and 94, higher than J.R. who had 65 and 84 and also scored more points than Backes.

Now I'm not saying Mark is better than either of these players and he has a long way to go. However, maybe the Flames brass feels this guy has a very high ceiling.

I agree it is a high risk gamble of a pick and with the Flames draft record history they can't afford too many bust picks.

If the Flames want great picks they either have to tank for a few seasons or trade Iggy and/or Kipper. The latter which I seriously doubt since ownership refuses to move Iggy.

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#18 Kent Wilson
June 27 2012, 11:59AM
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@RKD

Backes was drafted out of the USHL...which is where the Flames picked Gaudreau last year and where Jankowski plans to go and play in next season.

Meaning, even the USHL is step up from Steanstead prep college.

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#19 BurningSensation
June 27 2012, 12:33PM
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Gange wrote:

But again, I HIGHLY doubt the scouting staff was looking at the level of competition and thinking that it was representative of what is to be expected. They're most likely scouting on the skills he exhibits while playing in that league.

Exactly this.

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#20 Colin
June 27 2012, 12:35PM
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So I'm just about fed up with the commenting system here, its nice we are giving you long comments Kent, but because of the length the system takes them to the far reaches of cyber space never to be seen again. ANYWAYS.

I don't get being upset for taking Jankowski over Girgensons(I get the Teravainen, in fact I was pulling for that one myself). Looking at Girgenson USHL stats, its pretty average, about 1ppg, average SH% among top scorers in the USHL, and didn't have much of an imporvement over his rookie season. Girgensons was picked high because of his size and hockey ability(skating, hockey sense and so forth) and scouts projected those atributes as translating well to the NHL. Again A LOT of the same things that the Flames saw in Jankowski, size, skating, hockey sense, things that can translate to an NHL level, even if the quality of comp was less. Next year is going to be a big measuring stick to see if Jankowski can take him possible NHL tools from HS to USHL and then to College.

As for taking Maata, great D doesn't have to just be found in the first round, a couple of prime recent exampes is Letang(3rd) and Weber(2nd), great D can be found throughout the Draft and its a matter of great scouting. Do the Flames have that good of scouting, it has yet to be seen, but again, this draft needs to be judged 2-3 years down the road and not 2-3 days after.

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#21 Bikeit
June 27 2012, 01:35PM
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You all have to remember that the final scouting ranking number is just a number. It is a scouting system that if you grow 1 inch and put on 20 pounds you jump 20 places in the final ranking. it just shows you how hard it is and imprecise to make the rankings. That is why you rely on your staff to do their job. The flames looked at a heck of alot more than the final ISS number and the level of league he was playing in. The league is now size, speed and skill. This kid seems to be all three.

I would be curious about his fitness testing, Hand and foot size to just see how big he really will get. How fast is he at a young age, what is his skating stride like and what that projects to when he is older and stronger. Does he dish out as much as he takes. Agility testing.

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#22 exsanguinator
June 28 2012, 09:55AM
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I guess Ken Hitchcock was on the radio yesterday in Calgary and he was saying that at least three other teams had the big jankowski on their lists between 21 and 30. So if our scouting department sucks, and after last year I'm not ready to say that yet, then at least 3 other teams are also out to lunch.

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#23 Baalzamon
June 28 2012, 11:48AM
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@mgran

what was Hitchcock doing in Calgary??????

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