When Flames prospect Mark Jankowski was picked in the first round this past June out of Stanstead College, it was difficult to put his results in context. Stanstead has never produced an NHLer before, nor has any team ever picked any one from that system in recent memory. Virgin waters means an uncharted course.
Which also means it’s difficult to know what sort of expectations to have of Jankowski during his freshman season for Providence college this year. Mark has just four points in nine contests through the early going (which translates to an unimpressive NHLE of 15), but given his young age and relative inexperience at high levels of hockey, Jankowski was expected to be more of a project that some other first rounders this year. So what represents a "good" season for Janko in 2012-13?
Jankowski = Colborne?
Obviously every player is a unqiue case, so when engaging in these comparable excercises we’re painting with a rather broad, coarse-bristled brush. With that noted, one potential comparable to consider is former Bruins 16th overall pick Joe Colborne. The 22-year old was chosen in 2008 after tearing up a similarly lower tier of hockey (90 points in 55 games in the AJHL) and then went on to play for the University of Denver in the WCHA. He’s also a similar kind of player – a tall center who isn’t overly physical but is known for things like his vision, hands and overall hockey sense.
Colborne, now a Leafs prospect, hasn’t made the show for good yet so he doesn’t really offer a peek at what kind of NHLer Jankowski might become. Still, Colborne is a few steps further down the path so he can act as a kind of bellwether which we can use to judge and predict Jankowski during his formative years.
Colborne’s College and AHL Results
One of the differences between the two players is Colborne was NHL-sized on the day he was drafted. Jankowski, on the other hand, only recently shot up to over six feet tall and will need to add at least 20 pounds to his frame over the next few years to have a chance at a meaningful pro career.
Colborne’s size meant less seasoning in the minor leagues; he played just two seasons of college hockey before turning pro. In his freshman year, Colborne managed 10 goals and 31 points in 40 games for the U of Denver. Assuming an NCAA translation factor of 0.41, that’s an NHL equivalence of about 26 points. In his second season, Colborne placed second on the team in scoring with 22 goals and 41 points in 39 games. His NHLE jumped up to 35 points as a result.
Colborne has a single pro year under his belt at this point. Last year with the Marlies he got out to one of the hottest starts in the AHL before a hand injury slowed him mid-season. He finished with 16 goals and 39 points in 65 games (NHLE = 22 points). It’s widely assumed that playing with a broken hand significantly suppressed his output however, so take those results with a grain of salt.
Finding the Range
While no one has ever been drafted out of Stanstead college, it is slightly more common for guys (like Colborne) to be chosen out of 2nd tier leagues like the AJHL, BCHL and OPJHL in Canada. Although we can assume those leagues are at the very least a modest step up from Jankowski’s prep school, they are probably in the ballpark.
Going back the last decade or so, I found 40 comparable forwards (including Colborne) who were drafted out of the AJHL, BCHL or OPJHL and then went on to play college hockey. Here they are with their draft season point-per-game pace, plus their PPG rates two years removed:
|Player||League||draft PPG||draft+1 PPG||draft+2 PPG|
|David Van Der Gulik||BCHL||1.79||0.50||0.57|
NHLers with roughly a season or more experience are highlighted
The table is ranked from best-to-worst in terms of draft+1 point-per-game pace, which is where Jankowski is in his career right now. Each guy had moved on to play college at that point and eyeballing things it looks like the translation factor from Canadian tier-2 hockey to college is about 0.4 to 0.5, particularly for the BCHL and AJHL.
(Aside – the OPJHL looks to be significantly weaker. Personally I wouldn’t look at any guy out of there who wasn’t scoring at more than 2 points-per-game in his draft season)
I also included Daultan Leveille because he was picked out of the GHL Niagra by the Thrashers in 2008. He failed to make any sort of dent in college and is currently in the ECHL. Zac Dalpe is appended with an asterisk because he was an overager the year he was drafted, and therefore a year ahead of his peers on the development curve. His numbers are skewed upwards as a result. Also, notice where Flames bust Kris Chucko falls on the list.
The sample is pretty small, but an apparent pattern does seem to emerge: most future NHLers managed at least a 0.7 PPG in their freshman year in college (assuming Nash and Colborne both make the show), while a majority of the busts were below that particular Mendoza line. There are a few exceptions like Tanner Glass and Byron Bitz, but those guys obviously made the NHL for reasons other than their offense and therefore aren’t really comparable to Jankowski. The big outlier is David Jones, who had underwhleming draft and draft+1 seasons, but then took a giant step forward in year 3.
On the other end is Brady Murray (Andy Murray’s kid), who lit up the BCHL and college right away and then fell off the pace in draft+2 and then fled to the Swiss league for some reason. Nick Johnson is another forward who took modest steps backwards during his college career despite strong draft and draft+1 seasons, but he at least managed to play a full year in the NHL for the Minnesota Wild in 2011-12. Matt Frattin is down the list across the board but still had a cup of coffee with the Leafs. I doubt he becomes anything more than a replacement level 4th liner, however.
A quick look at the list yields these rules of thumb for Jankowski’s expectations: 0.7 PPG or better this year and at least a 1.0 PPG pace next season. That would put him in the company of Zajac, Raymond, Colborne, Cogliano and Turris. As of right now, Janko’s PPG in his draft year is 1.63 and 0.44 in draft+1 year (although he has only played 9 college games so far).
Finally, if as a Flames fan you’re unnerved by the general lack of impact players selected out of second-tier type leagues since 2002 – we’ll, that’s why the selection was such a risky gambit by the organization. Zajac is obviously the cream of the crop here, while Turris might eventually turn out to be worth a damn. Everyone else has thus far proved to be a third liner or below, with the futures of Colborne and Nash yet to be determined (neither is likely to be a high-end first liner, however). Of course, There have a been a few names come out of the highschool system in the States recently (most notably Blake Wheeler) but again the truly big NHL names are rare.
Anyways, the take away is Janko doesn’t have to manage a point-per-game in college right away to be on a NHLers pace, but he should be within the 0.7 range through this season and at (or above) 1.0 next year if he is to become a scorer at the highest level.