March 20 2014 09:00AM
1. A big surprise
With the college hockey season now winding down and the NCAA tournament slated to start in just eight days, I figure this is a good time to look at the season enjoyed by the Flames' various prospects in the NCAA, with a bit more of a focus on the notable ones. This feeling, though, is precipitated largely by one person, who I never expected: Mark Jankowski.
The simple fact is that I now have significant reason to believe that the kid has figured out how to be an effective college hockey player. In his last 15 games, he has 12 points (5-7-12) after posting the same number (7-5-12) in his previous 21. That may not sound like a lot, but it's a difference between 0.8 points per game and .57.
And not that points are the end-all stat when it comes to evaluating players. And in fact, the points have maybe been a longer time coming. You might recall that I went to a game around the end of November in which he didn't even record a shot attempt. That was his 14th game of the year, more than 40 percent of the way through the NCAA regular season of 34 games, and at that time he had just 23 shots, which is sad, especially because of the general softness of the competition he faced in that time. He also suffered a stretch of five games out of eight in which he didn't have a single one.
But since then, he's ripped off 50 shots in 22 games, boosting his rate from 1.6 a night to nearly 2.3 That's an increase of almost 50 percent, and it's very encouraging to see. Of course, I'm still not sure that's first-round pick material, but at the same time, it's not nothing, and he still needs to bulk up. Providence has at least one or two more games this season (a miracle would have to happen for them to not-make the NCAA tournament), but if Jankowski can build on this stretch-run performance over the summer and into next year, the pick might end up not quite being the disaster it has been to this point.
2. Another big surprise
You might have heard over the past several months that Johnny Gaudreau went on something of a scoring run, in which he got a point in 31 straight games to tie a record set by Paul Kariya more than 20 years ago.
Well the streak, and Boston College's hopes of winning the Hockey East title, came to an end this weekend as the Eagles lost a best-of-three series to Notre Dame, which has now beaten them in three of their five meeting this year, all of which were in Boston. Before that, though, Gaudreau went off on Saturday night to even force the Game 3 in which his streak was snapped, ripping off a 2-2-4 line in terrifying fashion, which you can see here:
I want the power play puck movement on his first goal to ask me to the Sadie Hawkins Day dance. Four points. All of them pretty nice.
He will, though, have nearly two weeks off to think about what caused the Eagles' crashout and the end of his streak (namely that their defense got smoked by Notre Dame for most of the weekend, in which they allowed 13 goals, and that the Irish physically punished him every time he got the puck in Games 1 and 3, forcing him to the outside and keeping him more or less at bay). Of course, any time you can say that you rendered a player largely ineffective by holding him to just five points in three games, then I guess you have a pretty special player on your hands anyway.
He finished his 37-game league season at 32-37-69, 29-32-61 of which came during that streak over 31 games from Nov. 1 to March 15.
3. Another consideration
One might want to point out, too, that Billy Arnold, who runs the pivot on Gaudreau's line and is perhaps the best defensive forward in the entire country, is on a little streak of his own, picking up four assists on the weekend after being held off the scoresheet for the previous three games. His shot totals have been a little more underwhelming than even Jankowski's early in the year, as he has just nine in his last nine games, which isn't good enough. Of course, his job is to give it to Gaudreau or Kevin Hayes and let them go to work, which is why only 12 of his 48 points this season are goals.
With that having been said, he is at best a defensive forward prospect, so production shouldn't really be his primary concern to begin with. Especially because, as a fourth-year player, he's going to the pros regardless.
The good news for Flames fans is that he'll probably have some company. After all the will-he/won't-he talk that's gone on for much of the season, the general consensus among many plugged-in experts both in Boston and across the continent is that Gaudreau will sign when the Eagles' season officially ends in the NCAA tournament. I think they can still win it all.
4. Gillies' return to form
In much the same way that Jankowski had problems early in the season, Jon Gillies had some real difficulties in the middle of it. You might recall that after World Juniors, he saw his save percentage slip from .941 to .926 in just 11 games (during which he suffered 32 goals against), which tells you how bad things got. Providence, not surprisingly, went 3-6-2 in those games.
Since then, though, he's built it back up to a very respectable .930, and the Friars have won six straight (a game in which he allowed three goals on 33 shots to lowly UMass Amherst, included in the 11-game slump, was a 4-3 win). During those last five games, he's conceded just eight times on 158 shots (.952).
That's more like it, and that's why Providence could be very dangerous indeed in both the Hockey East and NCAA tournaments.
5. And the rest...
The Flames of course have a few other, less notable, NCAA prospects. For example, there's John Gilmour, who I think has had a fine second season on the Providence blue line. He had 5-13-18, which is not an insignificant number, but more impressive is his 67 shots on goal. That's only 56th in the NCAA among defensemen, but I'd imagine few guys in his neighborhood had as little in the way of time on ice as he did (not that the stat is officially tracked in college hockey). Pretty much every time I've seen him this year, I've walked away not-unimpressed.
Michigan State second-year forward Matt DeBlouw might only have four points (and 13 games in which he did not appear), but two of those points have come in his last three games, and against teams that aren't exactly pushovers: Michigan and Wisconsin. He will need to up his shot rate, though; he only has 29 in 22 appearances. I'd say he's a largely inconsequential player for the Spartans, which is maybe what you expect from a seventh-round pick.
Finally, there's Colgate's Tim Harrison, who has likewise underwhelmed as a first-year forward. Like DeBlouw, he has no goals, only five assists, and 24 SOG in 32 games played. At least you can say he's probably still learning the game, and he doesn't have the skills on the puck that a player like Jankowski brings to the table if nothing else. At 6-foot-3 and 193 pounds at just 20 years old, though, Calgary probably loves him, because Calgary loves size.