Five things: Somehow this is still a thing

Ryan Lambert
July 25 2013 11:56AM

 

Post-game handshakes
- pic via D. Mahoney

 

1. Yes, we're still talking about Mark Jankowski

I kind of can't believe this is a thing that is still ongoing, but there is, apparently, still some dispute about the particulars of Mark Jankowski's freshman season at Providence College.

For those that missed the firestorm on Tuesday afternoon when Justin broke down the particulars of his season in a fairly thorough way, the general point from those who believe implicitly that he will do nothing but succeed in his quest to make it to the NHL was that he's still really, really young.

That much is true. He was 18 for the entirety of the 2012-13 NCAA hockey season and will be until this fall, as a matter of fact. He's so young, really, that if he'd been born a month later, he would have been drafted this summer instead of last. That's being propped up as an argument in his favor. But there's a problem with that, and any other suppositions his supporters would make about his play are a little off base.

2. Clearing up a few misconceptions

One of the things I certainly saw a lot in Jankowski's defense over the past few months, let alone in the comment section the other day, is that it's not an easy transition to go from Quebec high school hockey to the NCAAs, which is essentially more of a men's league in which players can be as old as 25.

That's certainly true, and the thing I've always said about it is that the Flames rushed him into college hockey, when he originally planned to go to the USHL for a season as a means of furthering his development before he headed off to Providence. That was the plan right up until he dropped a few jaws at development camp last summer, when all involved decided that it would be a good idea to push him right into the NCAA system, essentially skipping a step in the adjustment process. Going from a league that has produced no drafted players ever to one that is the world's premier junior A league would have been a good idea, but going from A to C without visiting B was the third mistake the Flames made with Jankowski (the first being drafting him where they did, the second being projecting him as the best in the draft class a decade from now).

The reason, I think, that the decision to push him into college rather than let him go to the USHL is that it prevents him from becoming a Justin Schultz-type escapee. Under the old CBA, if you were drafted, then played junior for a year, then went to college, you could essentially do what Schultz did and opt out of being signed by the team that drafted you, and instead become a free agent. The Flames wanted to protect their asset, and you can't blame them for that as far as it all goes. But in doing so they opened the kid up to criticism that his defenders would call undue, and allowed the avalanche of expecations that they themselves started to fall on him the second he was a mediocre freshman on a subpar team. Which is exactly what he was.

3. Another problem with the "transition" argument

So okay, the idea that the transition is tough when you're just starting out in college hockey also seems to imply that his performances, logically, must have gotten better over the second half of the season, and this likewise was not the case.

Have a look for yourself. As you can see, in his first 17 games (half of the 34 he played), he racked up 4-6-10. In the second 17, he thus went 3-5-8. That may be a negligible difference in the grand scheme of things (.59 points per game versus .47). However, you have to take other things into account as well in these instances.
 
He had just 61 shots in those 34 games, which works out to 1.8 a night, which is simply not good enough. But breaking them down as first- and second-half likewise doesn't really benefit Jankowski all that much; he had 29 in the first half, 32 in the second. Again, this is a negligible difference (1.7 per game, and 1.88) and while there was an uptick in the latter half, obviously.
 
That, though, can be easily explained by what I would admit is anecdotal evidence: He got more power play time. I saw it with my own eyes, but I have no actual data to back that up since the NCAA doesn't keep track of those stats. He had 1-2-3 on the power play in the first half and 0-2-2 in the second.
 
However, I would say that I'm more impressed with the latter, and that's admitting he took some sort of step forward, because Providence's first half schedule was a bit soft, versus playing nothing but NCAA tournament teams in Lowell, UNH and BC for his final eight games of the year. He also had four of his 18 points in this games. Going 1-3-4 in eight games against very good teams is, however, his only points against good teams all season (save for a pair of assists a month earlier, also against Lowell and UNH). Everything else came against sub-.500 clubs who were worse than Providence, which itself was only three games above .500.
 
These, for posterity, were his point totals against every team, sorted by their win total for the season:
 

vs. Quinnipiac (xx-xx-x): 1 GP, 0-0-0

vs. UMass Lowell (28-11-2): 4 GP, 0-2-2 (2 primary ESA)

vs. Miami (25-12-5): 2 GP, 0-1-1 (secondary PPA)

vs. Boston College (22-12-4): 2 GP, 0-1-1 (secondary PPA)

vs. UNH (20-12-7): 6 GP, 1-2-3 (1 ESG, 1 primary ESA, 1 secondary PPA)

vs. Boston University (xx-xx-x): 3 GP, 0-0-0

vs. Merrimack (xx-xx-x): 3 GP, 0-0-0

vs. Brown (16-14-6): 1 GP, 0-1-1 (1 primary ESA)

vs. UMass Amherst (12-19-3): 3 GP, 0-1-1 (1 secondary PPA)

vs. Maine (11-19-8): 3 GP, 1-0-1 (ESG)

vs. Vermont (11-19-6): 2 GP, 1-0-1 (ESG)

vs. Northeastern (9-21-4): 3 GP, 2-3-5 (1 ESG, 1 PPG, 1 primary ESA, 2 secondary ESA)

vs. Sacred Heart (2-21-4): 1 GP, 2-0-2 (2 ESG)

As you can see, he didn't exactly "bring it" against the stiffest competition.

4. And what are we left with?

When looking at the season as a whole, if you'd say it was anything better than underwhelming you're deluding yourself. He's a project at the very best right now, and with little around him in terms of other promising prospects, you can't really expect any type of huge step forward. I saw someone say they thought he could be a point-a-game player, and another who said he could double his point total, and those would be more or less the same thing.

One thing that I don't think is necessarily fair to Jankowski is comparing him with Johnny Gaudreau, who's a completely different player on a much better team, and whose attributes suit him for success in the college game far better than do Jankowski's. You see a lot of very undersized players put up massive point totals in college hockey then not do much in the pros. Gaudreau also has teammates who are a lot better than the guys Jankowski is playing with in the best of circumstances. Gaudreau had the benefit of playing the USHL first as well.

It becomes, then, a question of whether you think Jankowski can make up the ground lost to that extra year of development. Many who have never seen him play except maybe in the occasional game online are convinced that he'll be able to do that with this summer, and become a force in college hockey. Friends of mine who watch Hockey East games all over the league with regularity are less convinced, and I am in that boat as well. I think he'll be better next season, but only marginally so, and mainly because he couldn't have less of an influence given the positions he was put into by his coaches as a means of encouraging his success.

There's no denying the kid has tools; he's good in tight spaces, and he can do some dazzling stuff with the puck when inspiration seizes him. However, whether he can actually use those tools is very much up for debate, and I think he still might not be especially prepared for the kind of physical play college hockey necessitates (even if he put on 20 pounds this season he'd still be reedy-looking).

5. Expectations for massive improvement

The problem with everyone who expects him to take this huge step forward in the coming season is that they're being as unreasonable as Jay Feaster was on draft day. There were something like 31 point-per-game players in all of college hockey last season. Many of them were on the same teams. The biggest point-per-game total on Providence was Nick Saracino's 18 in 28 (.643), and his 28 games played was 10 short of the 38 Providence played.

So if Jankowski is going to take that big of a step forward, he's going to have to do it himself. He's already getting power play time and more minutes than most first-year players tend to receive, and as a consequence these projections that he'll be able to heft the weight of all that expectation onto his own back and start putting up points alongside Ross Mauermann, and Derek Army, well, I wouldn't go setting my watch to it.

Everyone would probably agree that Feaster's comments about Jankowski being the best player in this draft were unfair to the kid. So, too, is expecting him to go from a meek nonfactor in almost every game of his career to a transformative presence on a mediocre team, especially at his age and with his past experience. None of it is fair to him, and the criticism people like me have to level at the player — if nothing else, just to balance out the unhinged hope-so proclamations of those who would blindly support him and throw palm fronds at his feet just because he's a former No. 1 Flames pick — is probably also not super-duper fair.

Here's what I can tell you, and what I believe to be a fair look at all of this: He didn't do enough to merit the expectations this past season, and he would still have to blow the downwardly revised expectations reasonable NCAA hockey observers now have for him out of the water to get back to breaking even.

That's just how it is. Doesn't matter how many box scores you looked at last winter or how much you like his tools. It's an uphill battle for the kid.

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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 Dr. Philosophy
July 25 2013, 11:30AM
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A main reason that this discussion is what it is has to do with the lack of knowledge. Nobody in or anywhere near Calgary has any idea what this player will do because he plays so far from the city in a league no one knows, that doesn’t keep track of advanced stats, doesn’t play a lot of games, has players with a variety of ages (some attending Ivy League schools), and operates in a foreign cultural and social environment.

With this in mind, it’s seems weak to point to (some of) his counting stats and say “Look! This kid is underwhelming!”, especially in the context of its blog, with its emphasis on so-called “advanced stats”.

That said, I appreciate this follow-up to Azevedo’s original article. It gives a little more perspective. And it’s bang on that Feaster’s already made three mistakes with this kid. Those mistakes, more than anything else, speak to the inability of MJ to make it to the NHL.

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#2 BJ
July 25 2013, 11:33AM
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You are right it is an uphill battle.... but wouldnt it be for any 21 st overall pick? Except for the rare exception course....

Ahha exception....

I am not against the in depth statisticall analysis by writers on this site... in fact it is one of the reasons i read this site so much... you guys do a great job with the content...

But back to exception... it seesms to me that when you are trying to find elite talent outside of the top 10 overall picks.... you are actually searching for the outliers or the exceptions to the statistical norm. How many players put up good to great numbers and yet do no not make the NHL? It is awful tough to predict. Look at where guys like weber nad Brodeur were drafted... these guys are generational talents and most of the GMS missed out.

Whether or not Janks makez the NHL Im glad Feaster swung for the fences... we have enough 2nd/3rd liners... that has never been our problem

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#3 jai kiran
July 25 2013, 11:38AM
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I only got to see the 2nd online scrimmage of the development camp this year (I thought Janko looked good) but I've talked to a bunch of people who were at the camp: and EVERYBODY commented on how the kid did NOT look reedy anymore.

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#4 @Gingras34
July 25 2013, 11:42AM
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We get it, he farkin sucks.

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#5 Primo
July 25 2013, 11:43AM
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Ryan...The mistakes you refer to that Feaster has made in drafting Jankowski too early is the same argument that many of your readers used when Emile Poier was apparently also drafted too early.

What you lack is intell that the Flames have that shows other teams will most likely draft a particular player before it's time for the Flames to draft again. Unless you have this intel your argument carry's no credibility with me.

Of course the great thing about this website is that we are all entitled to express our opinions and you did so...good stuff!

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#6 coachedpotatoe
July 25 2013, 11:43AM
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Patience. How many kids have been missed over the years by all the experts? Give the kid a chance. Again maybe he becomes something he's not. It would be great if he was a 30 goal scorer, but I would also be happy with a good 2 way centerman who wins face offs.

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#8 mattyc
July 25 2013, 12:04PM
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I think Kent put it best with his null hypothesis quote. We shouldn't be penciling in any of the prospects on the big roster until they prove they can play. The odds favor not making it so heavily that to make the show you have to be an 'outlier'. Sure Jankowski hasn't proven he's an NHLer yet, but neither has anyone drafted after him yet. From the 2012 draft, only Yakupov and Galchenyuk 'made the jump' (you could argue a few more - Grigorenko played 25 games, Murray probably could have stuck... etc.). The point is, right now all this prospect glorification/dismissal is based on such a weak collection of data (a couple prospect camps and/or a few college games), and until a prospect proves they're an outlier, they're not really any better/worse than any other.

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#9 @Gingras34
July 25 2013, 12:07PM
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A 1.8 SPG average is terrible. It's really just unrealistic to think the kid is going to take a huge step forward this year.

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#10 If Only HIs Name Was Olli Postandin
July 25 2013, 12:11PM
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This is one of Lamberts`better articles in a while. An argument with actual facts and observations to credibly substantiate it.

Personally, I believe Granlund and Jankowski are the two most under-rated prospects on FN, but their critics are well served in pointing out their weaknesses. Both will be fighting against the odds, but that`s what you would expect of late-first and second-rounders.

If you thought Djanko had a bad year, Ceci, Maata, Faska, and Girgensons were equally underwhelming as well.

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#11 Subversive
July 25 2013, 12:14PM
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This is not 5 things. This is 1 thing. 1 looong thing.

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#12 Tenbrucelees
July 25 2013, 12:15PM
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The author has obviously made efforts to produce a balanced article so kudos there. Let's see how Janko goes next year. Personally I'm hoping for a little more chutzpah to go with the hands. Still, let's wait and see ....

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#13 Subz
July 25 2013, 12:22PM
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I agree with you Lambert, Janko will be on of 30 or so players who will be a point a game next year.

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#14 SmellOfVictory
July 25 2013, 12:48PM
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I don't know why there's such a debate between projections of optimism and pessimism on Janks. From the beginning he seemed to me to be the epitome of a wait-and-see player; he's not bad at a bunch of stuff the way an expected bust (Matt Pelech) would be, but he's not dominant enough to be an expected success. I do think he's incredibly interesting to follow as a result of this, though.

He's the Dos Equis guy of prospects.

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#15 Kent Wilson
July 25 2013, 12:57PM
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@SmellOfVictory

Yeah. He could still definitely go either way. A big first year would have been a nice good arrow, but there's still lots of time.

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#16 BurningSensation
July 25 2013, 01:09PM
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@Ryan Lambert

"...but going from A to C without visiting B was the third mistake the Flames made with Jankowski (the first being drafting him where they did, the second being projecting him as the best in the draft class a decade from now)."

I actually agree that Feaster's comments at the draft were definitely a mistake. But as mistakes go, it's pretty minor. Every GM thinks they got 'the best guy at the draft', what differentiates Feaster is that he was stupid enough to say so out loud.

As to the contention that where we drafted him was a mistake, I think you are flat out wrong. Wrong for two reasons;

1. Feaster dropped down in the draft to get a 2nd round pick and still take Jankowski.

2. At the very least Detroit (and iirc another end of the draft team) had him on their radar at the end of the 1st. He wasn't going to make it into the 2nd rnd where we could have taken him.

If anything Feaster handled it rather adroitly, getting the guy his scouts wanted AND getting extra value in the form of a 2nd rnd pick. That is good asset management.

As for the 3rd mistake, I think it remains to be seen whether it was actually a mistake. College hockey has fewer games, more weight room time, and Jankowski is being 'hot housed' with other Flames prospects that he can reasonably expect to encounter again as he climbs the Flames depth charts.

So at best I'd say you are 1 out of 2, with a possibility that you are 2 out of 3.

Should we have high expectations of Jankowski having phenomenal success next year? No. A player with a similar background and skill set is Joe Colbourne, a big, skinny pivot project who played in the AJHL before jumping to a higher level, who needed to add weight and get playing time to develop. It took a full 3 years plus for Colbourne to flash the high-end that he projected (only to have it all but totally wiped out by injuries). Jankowski is going to need a similar amount of time to judge better where he will eventually fit into the Flames.

That all said, the fact he's been invited to the Canadian Jr camp is definitely a positive (I have a hard time thinking it's all an exercise in nepotism), and while I am cautious in my optimism, I think there is still good cause for the optimism.

I for one, am hoping he tears the cover off the ball this year in Providence.

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#17 RexLibris
July 25 2013, 01:51PM
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I think I had argued previously that the best thing that could happen to Jankowski is for Flames fans to forget that he even existed for three years.

Too bad this kid is getting all this attention this early, he needs time. I'm not going to say that he makes it to the NHL or doesn't - he was a late 1st round pick in what appears to be a weak draft year - but I do agree with the sentiment that it'll be another two or three seasons before we can say anything about him with confidence.

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#18 Michael
July 25 2013, 02:28PM
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Janko was drafted in the first round of the NHL draft, if he can't stand out at the college level, what chance does he have of making it to the NHL?

He may simply have had an off year, but put me in the 'concerned', but not totally surprised category. Adversity builds character, lets see how the kid handles himself next year. He needs to demonstrate why he was a first round selection.

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#19 T&A4Flames
July 25 2013, 03:14PM
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"When looking at the season as a whole, if you'd say it was anything better than underwhelming you're deluding yourself. He's a project at the very best right now"

This is the only point that matters. He is a project. That's what we were told when he was drafted and it still stands.

See u in 2017-18 Janko.

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#20 beloch
July 25 2013, 03:46PM
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I've said it before. PPG (and SPG) is not a meaningful stat without TOI, as a bare minimum. 34 games is not a very good sample size either. Anyone who thinks they know what kind of player Jankowski will be based on this paucity of stats is out to lunch. If your opinion is based on watching the kid play and you're a pro scout, I'd still give good odds against you being right!

Feaster threw a hail mary pass with the Janko pick and we have no idea where it will land. Bear in mind that a lot of safe-bet, sure-thing first rounders wash out too. Give it a couple of seasons.

I just hope Janko doesn't read this blog. What a mind@$?! that would be!

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#21 Cowtown 1989
July 25 2013, 04:04PM
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@BurningSensation

Well put. The difficulty in predicting Janko's future is equivalent to predicting the University success of a grade nine student. One month later and he would have been competing with Monahan's draft class. We should cut this kid a break.

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#22 exsanguinator
July 25 2013, 04:39PM
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RexLibris wrote:

I think I had argued previously that the best thing that could happen to Jankowski is for Flames fans to forget that he even existed for three years.

Too bad this kid is getting all this attention this early, he needs time. I'm not going to say that he makes it to the NHL or doesn't - he was a late 1st round pick in what appears to be a weak draft year - but I do agree with the sentiment that it'll be another two or three seasons before we can say anything about him with confidence.

That's pretty much where I sit right now as well. I'm much more inclined to wait for his 3rd and 4th years of college before I begin to make up my mind about him.

I don't care what Feaster said about him, the fact is that he was a late first round pick so that pretty much means he's marginally more than a gamble on whether he can make any meaningful impact at the NHL level.

I'm gonna give him some time and then evaluate where he's at.

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#23 schmenkley
July 25 2013, 07:17PM
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I find this post decidedly unemotional and factual

:)

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#24 SeanCharles
July 25 2013, 07:52PM
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I think Jankowski is a special case.

He was too small to be drafted into the OHL.

He dominated the league he did play in, he grew quickly and now needs to fill out.

He was days away from being a 2013 pick and took a big jump in leagues and still finished top 5 in points on his team. He was 6 behind leader, all ahead of him were considerably older.

Taking the college route expediates his NHL debuit also, to the contrary of some belief.

You develop better in college, and he proved he was ready. He can put on wieght, which he did, there and play against men.

He filling out his frame and will get to play center next season.

In my opinion he is a better prospect today than he was on draft day.

A player that goes through all the above and gets over 0.5 points per game should not be recieving this much debate.

In most others eyes he is a legitimate prospect who has good upside.

Next season he will more than likely lead his team in points.

He increased his stock this year and earned an invite to WJ camp. Enough about his uncle.

This kid needs more time to fill out and learn to utilize his growing body.

Give him time.

Frankly, I'd bet all of Feaster's first round picks play in the NHL.

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#25 seve927
July 25 2013, 09:52PM
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schmenkley wrote:

I find this post decidedly unemotional and factual

:)

I wonder who write it? I usually don't read his posts, but I was looking through the comments, and got the sense it wasn't pure lunacy. Well written and logical.

You've been hacked!

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#26 schmenkley
July 25 2013, 10:31PM
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seve927 wrote:

I wonder who write it? I usually don't read his posts, but I was looking through the comments, and got the sense it wasn't pure lunacy. Well written and logical.

You've been hacked!

Read somewhere that BoL was threatening force-fed Zoloft sessions, is it possible he started with......?

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#27 the-wolf
July 26 2013, 08:57AM
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All that effort. All the same arguments.

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#28 coachedpotatoe
July 26 2013, 09:30AM
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exsanguinator wrote:

That's pretty much where I sit right now as well. I'm much more inclined to wait for his 3rd and 4th years of college before I begin to make up my mind about him.

I don't care what Feaster said about him, the fact is that he was a late first round pick so that pretty much means he's marginally more than a gamble on whether he can make any meaningful impact at the NHL level.

I'm gonna give him some time and then evaluate where he's at.

I doubt that the coaches of the WJHC invited him to do Feaster a favour. They must at least think he some potential to invite him. 2-3 years of college hockey and he will be a man; then we can accurately judge him. We really should be talking about this years team and the prospects likely to push for time here.

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