In the midst of wailing and gnashing of teeth, I managed to make my way down to the press scrum with the newest member of the Calgary Flames, Mark Jankowski. The 17-year old looked every bit the high school student, but answered questions in a calm, poised manner.
The kid looks young because he is. Jankowski was born on September 13, 1994 and only made the draft cut off point by a couple of days. In fact, he graduates from highschool next week and only decided to attend the draft at the last minute because he was unsure where he’d go. He noted he wanted to have the experience, though, so ultimately decided to attend.
When asked about his future plans, Jankowski said he will be going to USHL Providence (Dubuque) next year. "Coach Montgomery at Dubuque, he has a really good program. He’s been doing it for a couple of years. I really think he’s going to help me develop and make that transition."
On his strengths, Jankowski said "I think I’m a big, skilled forward. I really like to use my vision and my hockey sense to make the players around me better."
When asked what he needs to improve, Jankowski noted he still needs to put some bulk on this relatively thin frame.
"I think one thing is definitely getting a little bit bigger and stronger and I am really committed to doing that. I am going to work out really hard in the season and the off-season."
Even though he settled in at 43 overall on Central Scoutings draft list, Jankowski’s ranking actually shot up by more than 30 places since the mid-term ranks were released. When asked why his consensus ranking improved so much, Jankowski discussed his recent growth spurt and how scouts started to take notice of him.
"I have been filling out quite a bit. In my OHL draft year I was 5’8", 130 pounds. Now I’m 6’2" and three quarters and about 175 pounds, so I’ve definitely grown and filled out."
"I think a lot of it was just getting that exposure initially…playing at Stanstead College, not a lot of people knew where it was right away. As soon as I got that exposure, more and more people started to come watch and I kept on impressing. "
Jankowski also described his interview experience with the Flames and why he had an inkling the team might pick him.
"I interviewed at the combine and today and I think one other time…they had their whole staff there, like 35 guys or something like that. It was pretty intimidating in front of all them, but I thought the interview went really well and I thought coming out of the interview I had impression of what was going to happen."
Impressions and Analysis
Seeing and hearing Feaster and Weisbrod talking about Jankowski, it’s clear the latter fell in love with the kid after a few viewings and likely fought for him on the Flames list. He still strikes me as a reach at 21 given his conensus ranking, but Weisbrod gave the impression other teams were looking at him and he probably would not have lasted until the second round.
There are some things to dislike about the move on the face of it – it’s always a gamble to select guys out of second and third tier leagues because of the diffuclty of placing their performance in context versus NHL-quality prospects. Stanstead College is way off the beaten path and the level of competition there is going to be much poorer than most other feeder leagues.
In addition, the Flames reached when a few other, highly touted forwards fell within their grasp. Primary amongst which was Teuvo Teravainen who was named by many as top-5 or top-10 forward talent. In our interview with him, Matias Strozyk said Teravainen looked like the most impressive pure talent to come out of Finland since Teemu Selanne. That’s high praise. Teravainen also played againt men in the SM-liiga last year, so it’s much easier to grade his abilities against that level of competition.
That said, there’s some encouraging aspects to the Jankowski pick. First and foremost is Jankowski’s youth – he’ll likely end up being the youngest player picked this year, meaning he is further away from his peak and has more time than to grow and develop. His results this year were also impressive, quality of the league notwithstanding – with 53 goals and 93 points in just 57 games, he was clearly a dominant force. Scouting reports are all universally positive too, with the few knocks against him being his weight and, again, th fact that he was playing against high school students in Quebec.
It will be instructive to see how Jankowski does in Dubuque next year, which seems to be pumping out a lot of NHL-prospect type talent recently (Gaudreau, Girgensons). His numbers in that league will give us a better idea of whether the Flames will look like geniuses or dunces a few years down the road.
Personally, this is a pick I would have been a lot more pumped about in the 2nd round or beyond rather than 21st (or 14th, since he was the top played on Calgary’s list). Like the Gaudreau hail mary in the round 4 last year, gambling on Jankowski after round one would have struck me as a lot less risky, particularly given the talent that was still around when they were choosing at both 14 and then 21.
That said, the kid has me intrigued because he’s young, he’s growing like a weed and he has a lot of tools. If he turns into what Feaster and Weisbrod seem to think, no one will be talking about Teravainen (unless Teuvo is indeed the next Selanne o course) or trading down in a few years.
That said, if he doesn’t, it will be pretty embarassing for all involved. Only time will tell.