The Flames by just about any measure did not have the best draft on Friday and Saturday. Nor was it the worst, despite a lot of the immediate reactions to some of the moves (including my own). But there is one thing that can absolutely can be said about it- in particular the first round: it was by far the most interesting draft.
In a way, we should have expected Calgary to go a little bit off the board. We should have expected them to trade down, given the number of times Feaster referred to wanting a 2nd round pick. But when the fourteenth selection rolled around and both Teravainen and Girgensons were available, the obvious move seemed to be drafting someone that was available, which is why so many fans were shocked when Feaster traded down. And then again when Feaster chose to pass up one of the best defenders in the draft in Olli Maata at twenty-one, people were even more shocked – especially given how far off the board Feaster apparently went.
So how should we feel about the selection of Jankowski? Thrilled? Worried? What happened to make the Flames take such a huge chance? What does this say about the Flames?
How Did the Flames Get Here?
The Flames got to the point of taking Mark Jankowski at 21st overall with one thing: GIANT BALLS OF STONE.
No matter what, whether it was a good choice or an incredibly poor one, that pick took balls. They took a player because they really truly thought he was a good bet. Flames brass knew he played in a lesser league, they knew there were a lot of unknowns, and they decided he was the player for them, even at the cost of Teravainen. They twice passed up higher ranked players for Jankowski. Given the media climate towards the Flames lately, that really takes some big boulders.
It shows an incredibly amount of faith in two things as well: their scouts (who, admittedly, have been very good the past couple drafts) and the PUCKS system, which they now use to help with drafting. The other thing to keep in mind is that they didn’t necessarily view it as "Jankowski > Teravainen". Instead it’s likely closer to "Jankowski and Sieloff > Teravainen". If the trade for the second rounder didn’t materialize, it’s possible the Flames would have either Teravainen or Girgensons in the fold.
Given the number of positive reports on Sieloff’s defensive acumen and abilities, as well as my own positive (albeit limited) viewings, it’s possible the Flames think they’ll come out much further ahead on the trading down and taking of Jankowski.
How Should We Feel About This?
I’m going to stick with "confused". On the one hand, it’s great seeing the Flames take guys purely because of hockey ability and offensive awareness, rather than size, grit, and "character". Even the reaches tend to occur for the wrong reasons: guys who succeed in junior or high school because they grew too fast too soon, guys who look like they succeed because they play next to much better players (*cough*Nemisz*cough*), and overagers who succeed because they’ve just been playing at a particular level for so damn long.
But for all those good things, it’s still a consensus reach. Even if trading down to get two players is a net positive, it’s far likelier that Maata will be even more of a positive for a team – and sooner too, given Jankowski’s college plans.
That said, Jankowski was the youngest player taken in the draft. He was nearly a year younger than Yakupov, which means he has more space to develop than a great deal of the other draft picks. It also means there’s a lot of space for him to not pan out.
At the end of the day, this will likely be Jay Feaster’s defining moment as GM of the Flames. Darryl Sutter’s was the Phaneuf trade, for better or worse. Craig Button will likely be remembered for letting both Savard and St. Louis get away from the Flames before becoming All-Star players. Jay Feaster will be remembered for either the brilliant Jankowski pick or the horrible passing up of Teravainen/Maata. It seems likelier to be the latter, but maybe, just maybe, the Flames know something nobody else does.