Five things: Another NCAA prospects review

1. Some good news

So in the last several days, I had a chance to see five of Calgary’s six NCAA prospects live and in person, which was a nice treat. I took in a pair of Boston University games this past weekend, and got an eyeful of Brandon Hickey, and then on Tuesday had a chance to see Providence College (Mark Jankowski, Jon Gillies, John Gilmour) take on Colgate (Tim Harrison). Would that Michigan State (Matt DeBlouw) had been in town, but I guess we’ll have to settle.

You’ll recall that last week I talked about the progression so far this season for Jankowski and Gillies, and what I saw in Tuesday’s game really continued both those trends for me.

Gillies is still dominant. Obviously. He certainly didn’t have his best game on Tuesday (three goals allowed on 32 shots) but he didn’t see the first two through traffic, and the third was the result of a scramble around the netfront that he really couldn’t have been expected to stop. He also made a number of saves that most college goalies do not make, to keep his team in a game it ended up winning 4-3 on a truly bizarre game-winner late in the third. That this was his worst outing since Halloween, on a statistical basis, really doesn’t matter; he’s still .938 for the season, having allowed just 28 goals in a little more than 883 minutes.

Kid’s just great, and I’d expect him to go pro this spring just as quickly as he can.

2. Now the bad news

As for Jankowski, well, it might be a situation where you call this one a wash. I tracked his 5-on-5 corsi-on statistics last night and they were quite poor (seven attempts for, 20 against) in approximately 13:59. He played about 17:50 overall, taking only two shorthanded shifts for about 1:15 in a game filled with penalties. But yeah, the possession numbers are, you know, bad: 25.9 percent. Small sample size, sure, but he’s playing top minutes and Colgate’s competition aren’t exactly worldbeaters. And to be fair, he was 2-10 in 4:43 or so in the third period, when Colgate was pressing.

(I should note here that TOI isn’t tracked by teams and so I have to do it myself, and thus I might miss a second here or there at the beginning or end of a shit; I also don’t always trust individual teams’ counting of their own corsi events for and consequently do that myself as well. My numbers were only slightly off from the official ones, though; I had PC down 24-31, or 43.6 percent, without the top line on the ice at 5-on-5.)

He did, to his credit, get a breakaway as he stepped out of the box after taking a penalty (200 feet from his own net), but the defensemen coming back erased the distance between themselves and their quarry pretty quickly and pressured him into a low-percentage shot.

As to the repeated insistence that he’s playing hurt, I talked to some people and I don’t believe that to be the case. He’s not wearing the “don’t hit me jersey” in practices and he certainly didn’t shy away from play along the boards. Basically, my belief is that he theoretically could still be hampered by the injury that held him out of the lineup as recently as Oct. 25 (seems like that’d be a bad injury) but I doubt it.

He was, however, very active in PC’s 2-1 loss to Northeastern, which I did not see, this past Saturday. His five shots on goal in that game account for nearly one-third of his entire output over 12 games.

At this point, I just don’t know what to make of him. He’s still relatively young for a college kid, but he’s also 20 years old. He’s 13 months younger than Johnny Gaudreau, and 13 months ago Johnny Gaudreau was lighting this same conference on fire. Gaudreau doesn’t come with Jankowski’s first-round pick/”best player in the draft 10 years from now” pedigree — which, okay, Jankowski was always overrated by the Flames organization, and mishandled after the draft by sending him to college before he was ready — but the production really ought to be better than this.

3. Back to good news

One guy I didn’t touch on last week who’s been playing well enough for Providence this season is John Gilmour. The stats aren’t in any way overwhelming (he’s a second-pairing defenseman with six points and 17 shots in 13 games) but that’s mostly because he struggled — partly with injury — early in the season. Through his first eight games, he had just two assists and four shots on goal.

But as Providence has come on in the last few weeks, so too has Gilmour. In all, 13 of his 17 shots have come in the last five games, in which he has four points. In fact, he had a goal and two assists in Tuesday’s game — the goal was at even strength and came entirely because he jumped up in the play and identified a truly abysmal line change from Colgate as an opportunity to cash in. Just a good follow as the game opened up in front of him.

Which, apparently, is how he’s going to flourish going forward. Here’s Providence coach Nate Leaman, who’s done a great job for the Friars, talking about Gilmour’s game:

“He’s an offensive guy and there was space in that game tonight. He was really good against Northeastern also, because there was space in that game. That’s what he does: He gets his feet going, he’s got a good stick, and very good vision. In the games where there’s a little space, that’s where you can really notice him.”

4. Neutral news

Unfortunately, I have little to nothing to report about Tim Harrison, as usual.

He had a single shot on goal last night — it was, in fact, the only one he attempted — and despite the fact that he’s 6-foot-3 he wasn’t very noticeable out there. He was a sixth-round pick and you can’t be too mad that he only has 3-3-6 this season, because he’s just an okay player that I don’t think was ever all that highly valued or considered.

You take guys like Harrison, who are size-y and did well at the lower levels (21-22-43 in 28 games in preps before he got drafted), because you hope they turn into something. He hasn’t yet, but he’s also just a second-year player who’s not getting top minutes or good linemates.

He’s getting a little bit of power play time this season — and Colgate’s man advantage is generally abysmal — but he’s not making hay there. Apart from a three-game stretch in which he went 3-2-5 against two of the worst teams in college hockey (Northeastern once and Sacred Heart twice), he has just one assist on the year.

I’ve seen his last two games live and, well, I guess you could say he plays a physical game. But that’s about it right now.

Anyway, highlights of Tuesday’s game are available here:

5. Still more good news

Finally we come to Brandon Hickey, who continues to impress me for Boston University.

He’s up to 1-7-8 on the season, with that goal coming in his most recent game, against nationally ranked and defensively stout Merrimack. That was a game in which he put four shots on goal and he got a lot of ice time with Jack Eichel, who makes his teammates’ lives very, very easy (I have the future No. 2 pick at close to 70 percent 5-on-5 corsi-for in the five BU games I’ve seen this year; Johnny Gaudreau, in the best college hockey season I’ve ever seen, went about 58 percent in my 15 viewings).

His goal wasn’t mind-blowing and it wasn’t goofy either. He just snapped a wrister right past the goaltender, and as coach Dave Quinn said after the game, when you put 35 good-quality shots on net in 15 games, one of them has to go in:

“He shoots the puck very well, gets it to the net, keeps it low, so he was bound to get one, and he’ll get a few more. He’s a real good player who can find the shooting lane, doesn’t get a lot of shots blocked. And hopefully that’s one of many to come this year.”

I’d attribute at least some of his huge shot total, though, is the fact that undersized draft-eligible pairing partner Brandon Fortunato is good at moving the puck and seems allergic to shooting it himself (just six SOG this year). Hickey often finds himself being set up by someone, which isn’t a bad situation in which to find oneself, but in all parts of the game, he’s been pretty strong as far as I’m concerned. I really like this kid’s game a lot.
  • MattyFranchise

    Thank you for this. This is good. I like to know how the college kids are doing. I don’t get an opportunity to watch many, if any, games most seasons.

  • MattyFranchise

    Good piece – thanks for the updates!

    In an effort to maintain positivity here, if you were to become a FN College-hockey specialist and just focus on the progress (and non-progress) of Flames college prospects and other intriguing draft-eligible prospects, that would be a good thing because these takes are certainly valuable.

    Or, if that’s not possible, have a regular non-Five Things College Report, so readers can choose what to read and not read.

  • Lordmork

    It’s getting tough not to get excited about Gillies. I know projecting goalies is tough, but are there any good comparisons for him? Can we hope that he’s going to be a starter? A very good starter?

    Also, I’m enjoying hearing about Hickey. Every solid Flames defensive prospect feels like a precious resource.

  • MattyFranchise

    Great update!

    Although a bit concerned I’m still in Jankowski’s corner. Perhaps a late bloomer and a couple of seasons in the AHL will be great for him upon graduation!

  • mk

    I love the college updates – its good to have a man on the ground for the Nations there.

    For no real reason, I’m really pulling for Harrison to make a big leap and make an impact – maybe simply because the Flames need some kind of impact prospect on D. Oh well.

  • playastation

    Good article on the prospects.

    Keep it up.

    I’m not convinced Janko is going to be anything other than a defensive center. Maybe at the AHL level? But even then, you need to have better corsi numbers. I would have expected him to be dominating at the NCAA level in some respect.

    With all the good picks Calgary has from the Weisbrod / Feaster regime, this one is still… right up there with the ROR thing. I’m pretty sure we could have drafted him this year in the 5th round even.

    Also TSN posted this article on our shot quality (which is what everyone has been complaining about). http://www.tsn.ca/talent/yost-shooting-tendencies-tell-different-stories-for-flames-stars-1.157288 (It’s not good if you’re wondering).

  • KiLLKiND

    Kinda disappointed by Janko I actually thought he would be able to make a bit of a jump this year and put up some better numbers. Giles sounds great so far and so does Hickey.

    In other unrelated news Colborne is back and Ferland got sent down. I don’t mind Ferland being sent down as he didn’t have that great of possession numbers and could still use more time before he is ready full time in the NHL.

          • Bean-counting cowboy

            Oh how I wanted them to pick Maatta at the time. Would have had Maatta and Sieloff and much of our “lack of young D prospects” talk would be diminished now.

          • DoubleDIon

            But it does. For as much praise as Feaster gets for his draft record, Janko was a massive miss. Just imagine Maata on the Flames right now. He’d already be the #3 D and the Flmes wouldn’t be forced to use the Engelland/Smid pairing every night. He would’ve been a MASSIVE piece in the rebuild.

            And no 20/20 hindsight comments either. Not only was Maata ranked well ahead of Janko, but good ‘ol Pierre practically busted a nut yelling at the cameras to pick him.

            The Janko pick was made with pure hubris.

          • mk

            Spot on. Feaster and co. sometimes locked in on favourites and were blind to unexpected opportunities at the draft. Picking Janko over Maata was an obvious one and Poirier over home town boy Hunter will be an interesting one to watch.

            It happens and to be fair Feaster had a very stellar draft record overall.

            Good article Lambert although I got the sense you were walking on eggshells a bit and not being your usual boisterous self …

          • SmellOfVictory

            There won’t be any 20/20 comments here, I don’t think. Everyone I talked to at the time wanted either Girgensons, Ceci, Teravainen, or Maatta (I was really pulling for Maatta when the Flames traded down). It certainly sucks, but I don’t think it hamstrings us. The Flames have had excellent drafting from ’11-’14, Jankowski and Kanzig aside, and this core group (along with the handful of “older” guys from ’07-’10) looks to be pretty strong.

  • playastation

    Nice article actually, Lambert.

    One thing though. You got a pretty funny, unfortunate typo in the second paragraph of Point #2… beginning and end of a s***? haha

  • DoubleDIon

    I like it when Lambert sticks to covering college hockey. Most of us don’t see very much of our NCAA prospects. It’s a nice resource and he actually seems to know what he’s talking about.

    When he covers the NHL I shudder. Seems to mostly provide basic coverage laced with baiting and comments designed to rile people up.

    Maybe stick to college Lambert? We’d like you more…

  • DoubleDIon

    Nice to read … could we not have something like this, even periodically, for the Adirondack Flames? Potter is +7 … surely he could be better than Engelland? Seto seems to be doing OK and wow, what an injection: Sven and big Ferland back during the same week. Good team!

      • SydScout

        Two points:

        1. The two times I’ve seen Culkin play, I’d thoroughly agree with you. Potter doesn’t appear to be near Culkin. That being said, I also liked how Kulak played in Adirondacks home opener and look how that turned out…

        2. Also thoroughly agree with Lambert on Hickey. Barely noticed him all of the once I saw him a few weeks back. He just plays smart and makes skating look easy. Not offensive at all but that is a sample size of one game (in an NCAA arena that serves beer!)

  • amaninvan

    Great article. Possibly the best piece you’ve ever written Lambert. I love these college updates. It’s nice to have someone so close to the action who can give us insight on some of our kids playing so far away. Great to hear that Gillies is progressing as expected (.938 for the season, 28 goals in 883 minutes is very impressive indeed). I’m even more pleased to hear that Gilmore has stepped up his game. He is often overlooked, and I while I think he is still a long shot to ever be a regular NHL player, seeing some progression in his game is certainly encouraging.