The NCAA hockey season began yesterday, meaning that the clock is officially ticking on Mark Jankowski.
Who? You remember, he was the Calgary Flames first round pick in 2012 – chosen the year after Sven Baertschi and the year before the rebuild began and the Flames had three picks in 2013.
Well, Jankowski is a senior now, so let’s have a quick chat about what to expect from him.
The Flames drafted Mark Jankowski out of a prep school in Quebec – Stanstead College – in the 2012 Draft. The decision to select a relative unknown over more seasoned and renowned prospects at 21st overall has long dogged the decision-makers at the time – primarily Jay Feaster and John Weisbrod, neither of whom is around the Flames anymore. But Jankowski remains, having decided to go to the NCAA and ply his trade there.
How’s he done so far?
In his freshman year, he had 18 points in 34 games. He was fifth in team scoring, second among freshmen (behind Nick Saracino), and the Friars were a .539 team. They weren’t great, but they weren’t terrible. Jankowski contributed, but he was not the reason the team won games (he had two game-winners and 61 shots, hardly elite numbers). He was also basically still a stick-man; a lanky, tall kid who needed to grow into his body.
By his sophomore year, Jankowski had filled out a bit. He had 25 points in 39 games, second among the team’s sophomore’s behind Saracino, and the Friars were a .641 team. Granted, much of their success was born on the back of their goaltending, but while Jon Gillies kept his team in games they still managed to score key goals at key times. Jankowski had three game-winning goals in 2013-14, and 87 shots.
Last season, in his junior year, Jankowski seemed to take a bit of a step back scoring-wise – or his age group took off a bit. He was sixth on the team in scoring and fourth among juniors – behind Saracino, Noel Acciari and Trevor Mingoia – with 27 points in 37 games. He had three game-winners and 64 shots. He finally filled out a bit and seemed to really enjoy his role on his team, and his progression on face-offs and responsibility as a 200-foot player has earned him praise from his coaching staff. (He was second-best in his conference at the dot.) He was even named to the NCAA playoff all-star team after helping his team win an NCAA championship. (Providence was a .659 team, by the by.)
After that review, let’s put the horse before the cart a bit: he’s going to sign a pro deal with the Calgary Flames after this season. I’m pretty confident of that. Players with less college success have been signed by the team in the past, and few teams are going to pass on a 6’4″, 200-pound center with an NCAA championship under his belt. (The Flames have a bunch of minor-leaguers becoming restricted free agents this summer, so it’s not like they can’t easily make room for Jankowski in Stockton next season.)
Last night, Jankowski opened the 2015-16 NCAA season with a four-point night. He had a goal and three assists against Miami (of Ohio), along with two shots. It’s good start, but here’s what I’d like to see from Jankowski this season: progression.
I’m talking a point-per-game. I’m talking about face-off dominance. I’m talking about taking more shots (ideally 90+ on the season) and playing with the puck more. I’m talking about being a leader on his team. Johnny Gaudreau was a really, really good college player because he was able to be the focal point of Boston College and their success for three years. Jankowski needs to be a focal point more often than not.
If nothing else, Jankowski needs to make the most of this season because it’s probably his last before he goes under the microscope a bit. If/when he signs his entry-level deal (in the year he turns 22), it’ll be a two-year deal. So the Flames will have two years with Jankowski in the minors on a daily basis; poking, prodding and otherwise trying to figure out what they have in this asset. If nothing else, he’ll never have gone through this level of scrutiny before as a hockey player – probably not even in his draft year.
The best way to set up Mark Jankowski for a successful career as a professional hockey player will be having a good final year of college. For his final year to be seen externally as “good,” he’ll need to continue to progress and most importantly, he’ll have to be a difference-maker for Providence College more often than not. In other words: that level of play that he showed in the NCAA playoffs has to be the expectation now.
He had four points last night. That’s a pretty good start. But he has to do that kind of thing with consistency if he’s going to have some momentum coming out of this season.