FlamesNation prospect profile: #10 Mark Jankowski

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At number 10 with our annual prospect profile series is one of the accidentally most controversial players in the Flames’ system: high school prep-turned college player Mark Jankowski.

Whether you love him, hate him, think he’s the future, or think he’s a bust, one thing is undeniable about Jankowski: he gets this fanbase riled up like nothing else. It’s impossible not to have an opinion on this guy. You all do. Each and every single one of you. Don’t let me down, comments section.

Because ever since Jay Feaster declared this random high schooler would, within 10 years’ time, be viewed as the best player of the 2012 draft, everything has gotten as out of control as that statement.

The trouble got started way back in December of 2011. Tod Button, the Flames’ director of amateur scouting, had seen the kid, and liked him. Then John Weisbrod, the then-assistant general manager of the Flames, was in Quebec on his own scouting trip. He had a free day. Button told him to go watch Jankowski.

Weisbrod fell in love. As he told Scott Cruickshank after drafting Jankowski:

“He’s a long way away, he’s raw, he’s young, he’s still got to cross the crocodile-infested waters and develop properly — like, it’s a long way from draft day to play in the NHL — but the physical attributes this guy has. The athleticism. The skating. The hands. The fact that he’ll likely be playing at six-four, 215. I’ve said it to our scouts all week long — he’s Joe Nieuwendyk.”

That’s extremely lofty praise to lay upon a kid freshly out of high school. The Flames weren’t concerned about the fact he was playing high school hockey instead of major junior. Because of his Sept. 13 birthday, Jankowski was one of the absolute youngest players of the draft – the cutoff day is Sept. 15. And when Jankowski should have been drafted into the OHL, he was only 5’9.

When he was drafted into the NHL, he was 6’2, and 168 lbs. Today, Providence lists him as 6’3, 186 lbs. 

We’re talking about a kid who suddenly had a brand new body to adjust to, and who now, entering his fourth season since being drafted, seems to be getting there.

Except he’s certainly not projecting to be the best player of the 2012 draft. Even though only 41 of those selected have seen an NHL game to date, even though it’s entirely possible Jankowski joins that group at some point, he’s already really behind, and there’s been absolutely nothing in his college career to suggest he’ll match a Filip Forsberg or Alex Galchenyuk.

Because for as many legitimate excuses you can make for Jankowski – he was always going to be a project player, he needed to fill out his new frame, he needed to adjust to the significantly higher level of hockey, he plays on a predominantly low-scoring team – he should be doing better.

Yes, he posted impressive stats from his time at Stanstead College; no, he did not have the best of the bunch.

Yes, he plays on a low-scoring team for Hockey East’s Providence College; no, he is not their top offensive player. Last season, Jankowski tied for 34th in points in Hockey East with 27; but was 85th in shots per game, with only 64: just 1.73 shots per game. When you’re at the bottom of your conference in a stat as simple as just getting shots on net, you can definitely be doing better.

However, in Jankowski’s defence: Providence really is low scoring, and does not generate that many shots as a team. 

jankowskiprovidenceshots

On the other hand, it does help show Jankowski isn’t capable of elevating above his team. He’s one of the better players on the Friars, but he himself can’t stand out – okay for a college guy, but not a good sign for a player with professional aspirations. Not to mention the drop from his sophomore to junior year – and he should be getting better as the seasons pass.

Jankowski is basically a somewhat big fish in a little pond.

And absolutely none of this is fair to the kid. It wasn’t fair to heap such lofty expectations on somebody playing in a nobody league. It wasn’t fair to point to that as a boast of one’s scouting prowess, that the Flames found this kid and knew that quality of competition be damned, that would be other teams’ loss and their gain. It wasn’t fair to take a 17-year-old still growing into his body and declare him the next Joe Nieuwendyk. Heads did eventually roll, likely in part because of this.

At the same time, it’s also important to not get caught up in every minuscule event you can find just to justify what’s happened. To enthusiastically, desperately point out that a prospect dominated a hockey development camp in July – you know, an event where the vast majority of bodies present will never set foot on NHL ice, and is ultimately meaningless – is the same as scouting a high school game and then cackling to yourself that you found the steal of the draft.

All that said, here’s what we know about Jankowski: he’s big, he has reach, he’s got deft hands, and he’s incredibly creative and talented. It’s just been difficult to translate that talent to an actual game situations on a consistent basis, when opposing players are coming down on you and forcing you to make quick decisions or at least hold your ground. Jankowski has played three seasons of collegiate hockey now, and no doubt he’s gotten stronger along the way, but for all his size, he’s simply not a physical player. If he doesn’t adapt to that by the time he reaches the AHL – likely a year from now – then that’s going to be a problem.

Some really nice positives that stand out for him? He’s more defensive than offensive, so the fact he can still be a reliable contributor to his team’s scoring is a nice positive; and he’s a good faceoff man, who has been improving every year. This past season, he was the second best in all of Hockey East, with a 58.1% victory margin. He was 15th in 2013-14 with 53.9%, and 52nd in his freshman year with 45.8%.

Think: you need to win the draw, well, you’ve got a creative, talented, defensive centre there to take it, who should not only be able to get you the puck, but has the potential to put it in the net, too.

Best case scenario, at this point? He turns into another Mikael Backlund. Which isn’t a bad thing – but it’s a far cry on what was initially sold from a management staff so aggressively enthusiastic about their first round draft pick for the second year in a row that they destroyed the narrative before it even began.

Quotable

I like Jankowski more than others. I don’t think he’ll ever be a consistent top-6 point producer in the NHL, but I do think he’ll be an above-average third-line center that plays a good two-way game and also has very good size. Like Hickey, getting stronger will help him even more and he’s made some gains there. He plays hard and is a good defensive center. He’s also good on faceoffs and is hard to get off the puck. Strength is the one thing with him. He might need some time to get used to the pro game in the AHL level as well, especially if he’s to adapt his two-way game, but he did well transitioning to college hockey on that end of the puck, even his freshman year.

– Mike McMahon, College Hockey News

  • DoubleDIon

    While I generally liked Feaster and Co., this was one of their two major mistakes. The no brainer was to take Teravainen who fell into our lap. Then if you wanted to trade down the no brainer was to take Maatta.

    Kids who are playing midget AA have no business being drafted in the 1st round.

    The other was the ROR thing that almost cost us Monahan for nothing.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Took the words right out of my fingertips.

      I’m fine with being on the fence about Jankowski (although admittedly toward the “bust” side of the fence, or at least the “low ceiling” side), but it really irks me that certain people will defend him to the death; “he’s on a defensive team”, “he had to adjust to a huge jump in opposition”, “he had to grow into his body”.

      All of those things were true, and I said the same thing… two years ago. When a guy has spent three years playing in college and shown only a miniscule improvement offensively, from mediocre production to slightly-less-mediocre production, it’s perfectly okay to say “hey, maybe he should be producing better than he is, if he’s got a real shot at being a good NHLer.” At that point, the adjustment period should be long over.

  • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

    “Best case scenario, at this point? He turns into another Mikael Backlund. Which isn’t a bad thing – but it’s a far cry on what was initially sold from a management staff so aggressively enthusiastic about their first round draft pick for the second year in a row that they destroyed the narrative before it even began.”

    So… yeah… not the kids fault that Feaster and Weisbrod had to tell everyone how much smarter they were than everyone else was.

    At the end of the day, Mark has the tools to make the Flames at some stage. Probably in 2017 which will then give him 3 full seasons to match Backlunds scoring totals of 51 goals and 128 pts by the time he turns 26, while hopefully becoming a cheap premier 3rd line center to replace Backlund who we will have to trade when he becomes too pricey.

    Both were drafted in the 20’s so let’s just leave our expectations where they should be, instead of being angry at Janko for comments made by 2 “American Idiots” who I might add NEVER EVEN PLAYED HOCKEY, and I don’t mean in THE NHL; I mean any hockey… EVER.

    Don’t be mad at Mark, it’s not his fault.

    • DoubleDIon

      Weisbrod played in College and professionally. He was in the North Stars organization and had some serious injury issues if I remember correctly.

      He was also a Harvard grad, so yes, he’s a pretty bright dude.

      That’s not to defend the horrible pick, just to correct inaccurate information.

      • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

        Sorry, got it the wrong way around, with him becoming a GM in the NBA with no experience.

        Still, if he is so smart then he shouldn’t have run his mouth off.

        Look at what the Canucks are up to since he went there.

        • DoubleDIon

          Canucks made the playoffs after being out the year before. He won a cup with the Bruins and Chiarelli stated he was excellent in the draft. Again, not defending his Jankowski move, but he is well thought of in terms of amateur scouting around the league.

  • clib542

    I have been known to be quite tough on Jankowski for several reasons. However none of them have to do with the following.

    1. Former first round pick – it doesn’t matter if he was drafted in the first round or the 7th round. It’s only about how he has developed and if he has what it takes to be a NHLer. The same debate with any prospect. It’s just harder to accept a first round bust than a seventh round bust.

    2. Feaster/Weisbord/Button, best player of the draft – dumb comment to make, wrong choice of words. Of course a team will be high on a player just drafted. There’s still hope, but I can guarantee the team, although new management, thought he would be further along with his game than he is at this point.

    To this point Jankowski has not shown what it takes to transition to the NHL. Could he make a significant jump in his 4th year of college and change my mind? Absolutely.. But until then my mind is set.

    I’ve discussed the “shots per game” a lot, because it’s a good predictor of a college player’s ability to make the jump to the NHL. 3 shots per game seems to be that magic number. I think there is a chance of this.. Over his best 4 game stretch last year, I believe he had 18 shots (I will look this up later). However he hasn’t been consistent. Take away those 4 games and his average goes down to 1.3 per game. There needs to be a significant jump there to change my mind.

    It’s been said since he was drafted that he Jankowski is a long term project. If he signs with Calgary, you can expect a lot of time in the AHL before he is ready. I tell people all the time, when they are going through something difficult – “you aren’t the first or last person to go through this”. My guess there is not a very large list of players who played 4 years at college, then the AHL for x amount of years, who then became regular NHLer. If you know of one, let me know. I will gladly compare them to Jankowski.

    I truly believe the reason why Jankowski wasn’t offered a ELC this summer was because the Flames want to give him the chance to decline one in 2016. Jankowski will have the option to become a free agent by doing so, potentially giving him his best shot at becoming a pro. In return, Flames would receive a compensatory 2nd round pick. Right now that is a lot more than he is worth. Now there’s a chance Jankowski does make the necessary improvements and leaves anyway, but that’s a safe risk for the team to make.

    Lastly, although it may seem like I am a Jankowski basher, I am not. I would love for the Flames to have another asset, whether it’s to trade or to keep long term. I am just keeping my expectations realistic. Until there is something to show there can be potential success, I will keep watching from this side of the fence.

  • DoubleDIon

    If Weisbrod/Feaster kept their mouths shut after the draft and/or Janko was taken in the 2nd round we wouldn’t still be having this debate.

    Unreal expectations from the start.

    Seiloff and his staph infection haven’t helped the situation either! When he was looking like the next captain of the US world junior team i was excited, when he was playing wing in Adirondack… not so much.

    • clib542

      We would still be having them. The only difference is that he would be a 2nd round bust and not a first. His production at Providence doesn’t change based on where he was drafted.

        • SmellOfVictory

          I don’t think he’s a bust even now, at least, not yet. The reason he looks so busty (heh) is couched a lot in the optics of him being taken: first, the Flames traded down 7 spots (skipping Teravainen, Girgensons, Ceci); they then chose a complete unknown from an unknown league (skipping highly-ranked Maata); finally, they pumped him up as the second coming of Joe Niewendyk.

          If they hadn’t traded down, meanwhile skipping over multiple very promising prospects (one who was called the most offensively skilled foward of the draft, and another who made the NHL as a teenage defenseman), and subsequently boasted about how awesome this random kid was, there’d be no problem. I think, given his physical attributes, Jankowski was a perfectly fine reach to take in the bottom of the 1st round. I just don’t think it was fine to ignore Maata and Teravainen in order to take him.

  • DoubleDIon

    “Best case scenario, at this point? He turns into another Mikael Backlund. Which isn’t a bad thing – but it’s a far cry on what was initially sold from a management staff so aggressively enthusiastic about their first round draft pick for the second year in a row that they destroyed the narrative before it even began.”

    One thing I would like to point out is that Mikael Backlund was billed as a very gifted offensive player, a creative play maker with good skating and puck skills. With all due respect to Backlund, he’s never going to be the 60 point guy that i think most people were expecting (or at least hoping for), and at this point, it doesn’t look like Jankowski will become that either.

    Flames’ management mishandled Jankowski’s situation right from the start, and I think that’s why we’ll likely always be left wanting more from the kid.

  • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

    Yawn. Crappy article, pretty much regurgitating the same old tired arguments against the kid, with the same old regurgitated comments section against the kid.

    One more year guys, and all of you will be taking back everything you said about him. I only need to look at guys like Sheahan and Wheeler and to know it’s already precedented for highly talented bigger guys on low scoring teams to be unspectacular at the NCAA level and then blow up as the quality of teammate goes up. I know they’re the outliers. So is Jankowski.

    • PrairieStew

      Yawn. Crappy comment, pretty much regurgitating the same old tired arguments for the kid.

      I’d say you’ll be eating your words next year when Jankowski flops again, but you’ll probably say that he played on a low scoring team and is good at face-offs. Seems like you’re just a Jankowski apologist at this point.

  • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

    The kid was a reach in the first round and Feaster in his bravado, hung the best player in the draft in 10 years tag on him.

    That being said I like his game, good faceoff guy, unselfish, good on the PK and draws other teams top line. His PP time is 2 nd unit and if he moves to first line first PP maybe we see a big jumpi in his numbers.

    They may have won the NCAA title, but talent wise they were more of towards bottom of the top ten.

  • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

    Oh well.. The success of our draft picks in the last 3 years along with Johnny has turned this into less of a deal for me.

    Should they have picked someone else. Yeah..can he still become something of value? Sure..and if he doesn’t well oh well. We haven’t missed him yet in the last how many years and we won’t miss him going forward. The cupboards are stocked. Sometimes you miss on a 1st and hit on a 4th instead.

  • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

    Draftsite.Com 2012 redraft still has Jankowski going 23rd.
    The Hockey News has him out of the first round but has Gillies going 30th..so you win some /you lose some. The Flames have won a lot more than they’ve lost lately and I still think Jankowski will become a useful player in any case

  • Howie Meeker

    Honestly, we’ve beaten this horse till it’s hind quarter has more lines then Darrel Sutter has wrinkles. Best sign the kid and see what happens in the AHL and give him 2 yrs to develope….one never knows what this year can bring for Janko Unchained…

  • Slowmo

    Jay and company failed on the 1 st but most of there picks are paying dividends Look at dutter 70% of his picks were duds and a couple first rounder’s so our cupboards became bare in the dutter era and Jay helped replenish and has been looking pretty good in my opinion look at Edmonton we got Bennett and they got a German who will probably be a 3rd or 4th liner could be wrong perhaps just hoping. LOL

    • PrairieStew

      Jay and company did not “fail” on the 1st when the results of any draft can’t be judged until 5 to 7 years afterwards.

      On that note, Sutter wasn’t really as terrible a drafter as he’s made out to be. A couple years after the lockout, he made some missteps because he hadn’t adjusted to the rule changes, but by 2007 we became a pretty decent drafting team:

      Backlund
      Bouma
      Brodie
      Ortio
      Ferland
      Arnold

      Most of those prospects didn’t bare fruit til 2013/14/15, even though they were drafted in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. So why would you try and evaluate Jankowski three years after he was taken?

  • PrairieStew

    Growth and development can vary so much. Some 18 year old look 15 (Gaudreau), some look 21 ( Aaron Ekblad, and to a lesser extent Sean Monahan). Janko is definitely toward the young end of the scale. If Providence has him listed at 186 pounds – that’s still pretty light. He turns 21 this fall and is only a month older than Monahan, though I think of him as probably 2 years behind Monahan in maturity. Let’s see what he weighs in at this fall.