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.