“How’d He Look?” And Other Observations From Development Camp

Over the past couple of days, I’ve had the good fortune to spend my mornings (and afternoons) down at Winsport for Calgary Flames development camp.

Development camp is a bit of an odd duck, in terms of what it is, and the questions it can and can’t answer – the primary of them being “How’d he look?” regarding almost any prospect.

Let me explain.

Development camp is fundamentally a time to get the prospect group together in early July for fun, frivolity, team-building, and some on-ice work. Newcomers get a chance to meet the team’s staff and get familiar with everybody in the organization, and for the college and European players it’s also often their only chance to work with Flames coaches in-person and in-depth for the entire year.

However, you’re also dealing with people that have played hockey for a living for varying amounts of time. In the media, we have a small amount of good-natured chuckling about how the hockey season never seems to end. “Didn’t we finish this season three weeks ago?” and it’s a bit surreal to be in a hockey rink in July when it’s gorgeous and 30 degrees outside. For the guys actually playing the games, a lot of them are mentally beat by the time the summer hits.

Let’s take, just to throw names out, Jon Gillies and Hunter Smith. Gillies played a full college season, won a national championship, then was with the Flames for the playoffs. Smith played hockey until the end of May and won a Memorial Cup. After that much hockey in that much time, you’d imagine they want a rest.

Multiply it by the 42 guys in camp, and it’s tough to tell who can do what, because all you can really tell is who is in shape (still) and who needs a bit of conditioning work. And even in the prospect base of the fittest team in the NHL, guys are huffin’ and puffin’ when they get off the ice because they haven’t probably done anything intense on skates since their seasons ended. Add in that the majority of the on-ice components have involved drills rather than showcasing systems and simulating in-game situations, and it’s tough to really place players in any kind of definitive hierarchy.

In terms of the camp so far, bearing all those caveats in mind, I can say this: the guys you would hope to stand out typically have.

  • Morgan Klimchuk seems to have an incredibly accurate shot.
  • Oliver Klyington is an amazing skater up-close.
  • Riley Bruce, Keegan Kanzig and Hunter Smith are all huge human beings. Bruce is skinny, but he’s also just 17. Mark Jankowski continues to fill out and seems a bit thicker than at last summer’s camp.
  • 19-Year Old Sam Bennett seems amped up, and was easily one of the most explosive guys with the puck.
  • Andrew Mangiapane is a great stick-handler.
  • Brandon Hickey looks really composed and mature for a player his age.
  • Jakub Nakladal looks about as composed and mature as you’d expect a player of his age to be.

That’s not an exhaustive list, but I’ve spent the majority of my time setting up interviews and handling logistics, sadly, so I wasn’t able to watch as in-depth as I would have liked to.

The upside? A ton of interview content coming your way later this week from development camp.

THE SCRIMMAGE

The only scrimmage of development camp is scheduled to go Thursday morning at 9:30 at the Markin MacPhail Centre at Winsport. Traffic around Canada Olympic Park has been a bit of a gong show because of construction on 16th Avenue and in the park itself.

My best advice is to show up early. Parking and seating space in Arena B are at a premium, and if you show up late, you may have to park far away and walk….and then stand by the glass.

  • McRib

    One fact I think people overlook with Mark Jankowski and his offensive totals at Providence is he is playing under one of the most defensive minded coaches in the entire NCAA, who rolls all four lines (10 forwards had 13+ points). If this kid was playing 20+ minutes a night on a BC or BU program he is putting up 35-40 Points in his sleep last year.

    Not to mention if he hadn’t missed three games and battled injury for another 5-6 games during the first quarter of the year he would have ended up as a 35+ point guy anyway. NHLE is a decent tool (getting 100+ point guys like Mangiapane in the six round should NOT happen), but for guys playing in defensive systems, under defensive coaches much like Austin Carroll (Led team with 77 points, he would have been a 90+ point guy on a Portland, Brandon or Kelowna) it doesn’t always tell the full story.

    I have said from day one that Mark Jankowski was going to be a player and at this point, still the only question is if it’s either going to be as a Top. 6 or Middle 6 Forward. Everything I read during his draft year on the only scouting service I read Red Line Report said he was going in the first round, like Poirier.

    I think it was truly bad optics when we drafted Mark Jankowski, “long term upside, when the prospect cupboard was empty “in a solid draft year, but the kids going to be a player, now he has a National Championship and strong defensive game as well.

    The funny thing is Mark Jankowski was still the fourth youngest player on his team this year as a Junior, its extremly rare for a first year player to go from prep school straight to the NCAA these days especially someone 30-40 pounds undersized with a very late Birthday. This is the type of kid that comes around where you just forget about NHLE (see Chara, Weber, Benn, Lucic, etc).

    • Burnward

      It’s nothing personal against the player and for sure, others have watched him more than I have. But the only times I noticed him today were in ridiculously lopsided offensive circumstances in a game that already resembled shinny more than it did actual hockey and was basically without contact.

      It’s not Janko’s fault he was picked where he was, but to me it’s irrelevant. Several players who were ranked by several different services ahead of Janko were bypassed. He probably needs to play his fourth year of college and most likely needs at least two more seasons in the minors. Even then, an awful lot of his supporters think he’ll be a third liner.

      Can Janko make it to the NHL? Maybe, especially with expansion, but IMO he’ll never be an impact player. Sorry, but under those circumstances I listed in the paragraph above, that just doesn’t cut it. It was a bad pick at that spot by any measure.

      Looking at how people gushed over Sven even two years ago and how he’s maligned now, a lot of the reviews on his play seem to me to be through rose coloured glasses.

      Thank you, at least, for coming at it from a different angle than gushing praise over an essentially no-contact pond hockey scrimmage.

      I’ll gladly eat crow if I’m wrong btw (the more assets the better), but IMO, Janko never becomes a top two line player in the NHL. Which is why he was a poor pick at that spot. As a second rounder, I’d be quite content with him, but he wasn’t, so we’ll see, I guess.

      Teravainen was my choice, btw and he’s already making an impact.

      • McRib

        Sounds like you are critical of Janko because your own preferred selections like Tervainen and perhaps Matta were not selected instead….so be it you are entitled to your opinion.

        Janko was always advertised as a work in progress and a minimum of 4-5 years before he makes any impact. In the interim he has physically and mentally grown significantly and his skill set is elite. We are just starting to see all of what was promised on his draft day.

        Looks like Mr. Feaster has again delivered….

        ps…crow is very salty….bring lots of beer…..

      • McRib

        Hey, we were talking about a player, not a draft pick. Its not Janko’s fault where he got picked. Get over it, and if not you should be complaining to the GM, not about the player,

        As far as “pond hockey” vs 5 on 5, that comment applies to every player in today’s scrimmage. So what’s your point? Today Jankowski was one of if not the best Forward on the ice. That’s impressive and a positive sign for his development.

        And just for everyone’s info, the last time he was on the ice, in the NCAA Final Four and Championship game, he again was the best Forward on the ice. They played the majority of the time 5 on 5. He beat out that other guy, you know, the Generational, 2nd overall pick, Jack Eichel, and was named on the Tournament All-Star team.

        He’s doing just fine and personally I’ve got no idea his ceiling at this point…. I think he’ll be a good addition to the Flames and I’m glad to see him getting better and performing when he gets a chance.

      • McRib

        Look, we know it was just a scrimmage. The same reason McDavid scored 5 goals. If anyone thinks that will translate to the NHL they’re out to lunch.

        But Janko has played three years at Providence College, in a very good league, with a great coach. He was even voted on NCAA frozen four All tournament team. I wouldn’t worry about his game too much, even though he will still need at least a year in the AHL.

        I’ve said it before, if he turns out to be a slightly better version then Joe Colborne, which at this point looks to be the case, then I’ll be happy.

        • everton fc

          Janko’s been doing quite well at Providence so that’s good to see, and as discussed above he has been doing well at this camp. It’ll be nice to get him into the Flames fold but I guess that’ll be another year.

          From what I’ve seen I’d say at this point he seems likely to be better than Joe Colborne. He seems faster, better skater and probably better defensively and more offensive tools/upside. We’ll see where he ends up. I still feel he’s on the upswing….

      • McRib

        I think Riley Sheahan of Detroit is a great comparable to Mark Jankowski, big time hype first rounder with a ton of upside going into NCAA. Never fully met expectations in NCAA, but you could always see the stand out tools.

        I had Teravainen 8th on my personal list that year… I never said I would have taken Mark Jankowski, but like I have said time and time again he never would have been available in the second round…. NHL teams liked him way too much, family friend who is an NHL Scout said at least three teams would have taken him in the first (just like Zachary Senyshyn this year). NHL Teams value larger big upside players more than the Corey Pronmans, NHL CSS, ISS, etc of the world because they know worst case they are getting a bottom six player, it’s never a risky pick. Even if the NHLE stat heads don’t like to hear that.

        Honestly I just can’t see how Jankowksi doesn’t end up as a third liner worst case, he’s way to good of a skater for size and plays a great defensive game stepping up to the AHL level then NHL is nothing for guys like that. Just to appreciate how defensive Providence system is… Tim Schaller his old teammate (Flames Summer Camp invite a few years back), never had more than 23 points at PC and came into the NCAA two years after Jankowski. He had 54 points with Buffalos farm team in the AHL and got into 18 Games with Buffalo.

        Mark Jankowski will make people eat crow there I have said it!!! Toolsy 6’3″ forwards with well rounded games that can skate, have good hands and an accurate shot jut don’t grow on trees, another good examples is Ryan Getzlaf, coming out of the WHL after his point totals regressed as a 19 year old no one would have predicted a Top. 10 NHL Talent, but like I said guys that have size, can skate and are toolsy are the guys that surprise in pros./p>

        • McRib

          I don’t disagree he has the tools, I just find that he doesn’t seem to use them to the proper degree. Like he’s not always engaged. Maybe sitting up high vs ice level would’ve changed my viewpoint, but to me he was invisible except for lopsided 3 on 3 offensive situations. To me, the guy should be utterly dominant in a scrimmage like that.

          I do get, and appreciate, what you say about his NCAA situation. I just have a hard time projecting him against pro men who are trying to take his head off all game.

          Plus, I’m not saying he’ll never play a game. I’m saying I don’t see him making an impact, which given his status of where and how he was picked, is part of the equation.

          • McRib

            I think his physicality will come he was severely underdeveloped the first two years playing NCAA and only started to add muscle last offseason, he still has a way to go with gaining confidence off that in my opinion this season especially (he still could add another 10-15 pounds as well).

            Joe Colborne is soft as butter to be frankly honest and still is by most Flames fans opinion a serviceable NHLer, I don’t think Jankowsi will be anywhere close to as soft as Colborne when we see him after a confidence building year this season in the NCAA before turning pro the following year. Time will tell, it is an area he needs to improve for sure.

            But I watched Jankowski penetrate the middle more this week than I have ever seen Joe Colborne do in his career so there is that (I have been following Colborne closely since his Camrose days).

    • everton fc

      It’s not saying much, but it looks like that is a fair comparison at this point of his career.

      Obviously we would all like to see more of an offensive output next year, but I think most importantly he needs to learn the game, and work on his strength.. his IQ and hands don’t seem like an issue at this point.

    • Burnward

      Burnwood: Did you film this yourself? It was almost as if you had your camera in my glasses as that was the view I had of the scrimmage. For those questioning Janko’s play take a look at the sequence at about the 5:40-6: minute mark. Hi little back door pass was awesome as was MacDonald’s save.