5 things: Some college updates just for you

1. Where we’re at

As we round the bend into February, it comes with the tacit acknowledgement that this is when college hockey starts to get Serious. Teams really only have a month left in their regular seasons at this point, and at this point we have a pretty clear picture of what teams “are,” or at least, where they’re going to end up near the end of the year.

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This is also true of players. Those who have been lucky in terms of PDO for the first 24 or so games of the season aren’t likely to be victimized by cold runs that are going to hurt their season point totals too badly, and those who have struggled to produce despite some solid play otherwise aren’t likely to mount any sort of major improvement in their numbers.

With this in mind, I figured it was as good a time as any to give y’all an update on the two Flames prospects I see on a regular basis: controversial first-round forward Mark Jankowski of Providence College, and steady Canada World Junior-er defenseman Brandon Hickey of Boston University.

2. Jankowski

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We’re obviously going to start with the big name here.

He’s got 24 points in as many games, through 11 goals and 13 assists in all situations. That includes 7-5-12 in 12 games against Hockey East opponents (which tend to be of a higher quality). And from what I’ve seen in discussions about his play this year, the point total is clouding perceptions a bit.

It’s no revelation to say Jankowski spent his first three seasons of college hockey underperforming expectations, but he started to break out at the end of last season and, from a production standpoint, he’s obviously kept it up. Now, he’s played 24 times this year, and I’ve seen seven of those appearances, so this is what I can impart to you as far as what he’s done in the games I’ve observed:

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As you can see he’s been a dominant possession player, and his team has outscored its opponents significantly when he’s on the ice. Perhaps, though, you’d say it’s a little too significantly to take it at face value: a 13.7 shooting percentage at 5-on-5 is pretty high, even for a player of his substantial skill level, but the .980 save percentage is absurd. Having a PDO of 111.7 is, you’d agree, out of control.

He has 4-11-15 in 24 games at 5-on-5, but only 1-3-4 in the seven games I’ve seen (which, to be fair, were against BU twice, BC twice, Lowell twice, and Northeastern once). In those seven games, he attempted 25 shots at full strength, 11 of which were on goal and one of which went into the net. That’s a personal 17.4 shot attempts, 7.66 shots on goal, and 0.7 goals per 60.

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3. Some analysis thereof

So to that extent, it seems as though Jankowski really whales on weaker teams, which is what he’s done for much of his career.

And likewise, what those numbers kind of hint at is that Jankowski isn’t out there grinding against the toughest competition other teams have to offer. More often, he’s used as kind of a tweener between the second and third lines in terms of usage, depending on whether the team needs a goal. Often, they do not. These are therefore players Jankowski — a first-round pick — should be beating on a regular basis. To his credit, he is.

What I should also note here is that there was a weird disparity in Jankowski’s performances. He demolished Northeastern’s (as he should) and BC’s depth players (I’d guess that’s more of a wash), but got caved in against Lowell and BU.

He’s making a lot of hay on special teams, which is something else you’d expect a player of his skill level to do, but in overall games, as in the ones I’ve seen, he’s just not as much of a huge difference-maker at 5-on-5 as he probably should be. He’s only sixth on the team in 5-on-5 shot attempts, and fifth in both shots on goal and actual goals. He only has four goals at full-strength this season, and that, to me, is telling.

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I know the Flames consider him “found money” at this point — which is an inexplicable and dizzying spin on “first-round bust” that I’d not heard before — and I’ve also heard him painted as a “good faceoff man,” which is patently untrue. I don’t track wins and losses in games I view, but for the whole season he’s at only 49 percent on almost 500 draws.

He’s a frustrating player to watch in that the skill is obvious, but his long-held reticence to get to the “hard parts” of the ice and actually get physically engaged is as present as ever. And it’s not like things are going to get easier in terms of competition as he approaches his pro career.

The thing I always say about Jankowski is that he’s a first-round pick who’s 11 months younger than Johnny Gaudreau. There are currently only three former first-round picks in the NHL who stayed for all four years of their college career: Brian Boyle, Kevin Hayes, and Eric Nystrom. The Rangers’ Chris Summers (3 GP this year) also technically qualifies, but he’s a 27-year-old with 70 games of NHL experience since 2010, so “not really an NHLer.”

The odds are looking very, very long that Jankowski makes the show at this point, and I’d advocate that the Flames just hope someone is sold enough on the production this year to give up a second-round pick for him. Probably won’t happen, but I think a second has more value to the organization at this point.

4. Hickey

On the other hand, there is Brandon Hickey, a second-year defenseman for a dominant-in-possession BU team that is very much at the vanguard of that positive play.

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Here are the numbers, without further ado:

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(I have actually seen Hickey for eight games, but there was a failed experiment in tracking both he and Jankowski simultaneously. The data from the first attempt ended up being correct, but it was so hectic that I couldn’t keep up without stressing myself out.)

But these are the seven games I tracked, against a little more varied opponents (UConn, Denver, Providence, Michigan, Vermont twice, and Harvard), and as you can see he’s been a bear, generating more offensive zone possession time despite playing a huge chunk of ice time and starting in his own zone more often than not, limiting that of his opponents, and both filling the nets and constraining shot quality against.

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5. More analysis

Again, you have to say 14.3 percent is too high for anyone’s on-ice shooting percentage, but it’s not like he’s the one benefiting from the bounces: at full strength, he has only 3-1-4 in 22 games, but man he generates a lot of that possession himself. For the games I’ve seen, he attempted 31 shots, got 11 on net, and scored once. But that’s from the blue line, so it’s pretty impressive as far as I’m concerned.

Moreover, he has attempted 99 shots at 5-on-5 in all his games, which is second on the team, a mile behind the 185(!) from undrafted senior Ahti Oksanen, whose sole purpose in life is to shoot pucks at an Ovechkin-like pace.

Based on his size, his ability to get the puck into the attacking zone, and take good, hard, low shots with regularity, this is a guy who — as I’ve been saying since last year — looks like a long-time NHLer to me. I’ve talked to some scouts who say, “He could play in the league for 10 years,” and I don’t know if I’d go that far but that also doesn’t sound too far off. He’s clearly very good at this level and, while I wouldn’t pull him out of college just yet, I think next season is effectively his contract year. He’s that good, and that close to ready.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I’ll maintain cautious optimism on Jankowski until he’s not considered a prospect anymore. I like the idea of trading him off for a pick, if the opportunity presents itself. Given the above results, I can’t see him cracking the Flames as a center. To me he sounds like Grandlund 2.0 with a bigger frame.

    Hickey continues to impress. How does he comapre to college defensemen grads Kenny Morrison and Justin Schultz? I’m curious how you’d slot each of these guys.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I miss old Lambert. Unfortunately this report was very analytical and not egregiously opinionated! He must be happier! His conclusions are hard to argue with. Good work Ryan.

  • cberg

    Thanks for the data, Jankowski seems to be doing pretty well, just what the data says. Your analysis doesn’t seem to match what the data says…

    Looking forward to both on the Flames next year.

    • ClayBort

      Analysis matches. Basically, you expect a senior to dominate, and Jankowski is also riding some ridiculous averages like the #flames last year. Even with solid possession in the NCAA his comparables aren’t that heartwarming.

      As for FeyWest’s question on Colborne, he was an excellent Junior A player that gets drafted in the first 3 rounds of any draft. Janko’s brother broke Mark’s records in High School and wasn’t even drafted last year. Colborne also hit 40+ pts as a sophomore, a total Janko likely doesn’t reach as a senior 2 years older. We’ve seen what Colborne is, if Janko is that far behind him, why bother.

      • The GREAT Walter White

        Yup, his ceiling is Colborne.

        So how do we turn him into a second round pick? (51 overall pick)

        Offer him a contract that he declines? Pretty sure he is going to accept any offer we give him, not like any other team will offer him…..


        • ClayBort

          You offer the absolute minimum, zero bonuses, and a 1 year deal.

          He’ll have a family advisor (agent) who will have seen plenty of players sign that will tell him that offer isn’t good and it doesn’t look like the Flames really want you.

      • FeyWest

        Maybe but again I still would rather see what he can do for a couple years in the A because that will be much more telling of how he will develop given closer attention by the Flames. Unless we get a fortune for Djanko off the bat I feel like there’s been so much time and patience put in I’d like at least for him to get a shot. He looked strong during camp so maybe all it takes is a more pro atmosphere for something to click. And if it doesn’t and he turns into a Colborne, I think he’s intriguing enough to warrant other teams interest.

      • Bean-counting cowboy

        The only record I see that David beat Mark in was in their 2nd season of Stanstead where David scored 75 points in the CAHS to Mark’s 57. Overall, Mark had 1.35 points per game to David’s 1.24 over 2 seasons each. But I get your point. They are not that much different. Mark at 6’4 to David at 6’1 was likely the difference in Mark getting drafted.

        I agree with most of the comments that it is not looking overly optimistic for Mark and would be happy with a 51 overall pick (or better – if another team likes the counting stats and takes a flyer on him and gives us an earlier 2nd)

        I will always remember the day I was yelling at my TV because I wanted Maatta so bad.

          • clib542

            Without Jankowski, the Providence Friars are not even a .500 team in my opinion. That’s what watching that team tells me. You can chalk it up to PDO or what-have you but the kid has a knack for making positive events happen, even if they’re not the grand Larkin-esque offensive aggression that we would prefer to see.

            I’m confident that he’s one of those rare players who don’t experience a dropoff in play as the competition rises. Blake Wheeler 2.0

          • ClayBort

            Maatta is 50.8% corsi with a +1.9% in the NHL in his first 140 games and he’s barely 21. That doesn’t happen, especially for D. He’s tracking to be a #1 defenseman. Parayko is also very good, but we’ll see if he sustains his play over 140. Not that the comparison should even matter, because basically you’re saying we shouldn’t have taken a #1 dman and still gone off the board because there was a better #1 dman available 70 spots later.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    “He’s a frustrating player to watch in that the skill is obvious, but his long-held reticence to get to the “hard parts” of the ice and actually get physically engaged is as present as ever”

    Did you just forget what you were doing and start talking about Joe Colborne?

    • FeyWest

      Given that I’ve heard these comparisons before I was curious as to if anyone had ever seen Colborne before he had been drafted? Honestly I never had thought to do so but think it’d be an interesting scenario to see how deep the similarities are. If you think about it if he looks like Colborne now — play style wise — maybe there’s another level Djanko can actually attain.

      • ClayBort

        Played against him. Very good tier 2 jr player, and he was pretty dominant in the NCAA turning pro after his sophomore year. The fact that Colborne easily found his way in the NCAA but still only turned into an unreliable bottom sixer is the biggest reason for my reluctance to even bother signing Jankowski.

      • ClayBort

        Colborne was excellent in tier 2 Junior A, good enough to go in the first two rounds of most drafts. He also reached dominance in the NCAA pretty quickly, turning pro after a 40+ pt sophomore year. The fact that he was a good college player 2 years younger than Jankowski learned to tread water, yet still only turned into an unreliable bottom sixer, is the biggest reason why I’m reluctant to invest further in Jankowski.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Lambert, if your point on Jankowski was that he is a long-shot to make the NHL you couldn’t infact have made a larger counter-argument to that point with your actual argument:

    “The thing I always say about Jankowski is that he’s a first-round pick who’s 11 months younger than Johnny Gaudreau. There are currently only three former first-round picks in the NHL who stayed for all four years of their college career: Brian Boyle, Kevin Hayes, and Eric Nystrom”

    Followed immediately by:

    “The odds are looking very, very long that Jankowski makes the show at this point”

    Every single one of those guys you listed in his exact situation all made the show and still play in the NHL to this day!!! Are you actually reading what you write?

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Are you kidding me? Yes. ONLY those four players (FOUR!!!) made the NHL. No other first round pick that stayed in college for all four years has made the show. So it doesn’t look good that Jankowski will. How is that hard to understand? Are you actually reading what you write?

      • clib542

        There are a lot more comparable of players drafted (any round) who played 4 years and didn’t make the NHL. Those players points/shots per game are a lot closer than drafted 4 year college players who made it in the NHL.

    • Hayes over his last two seasons: 33-57-90 in 67 games (1.34 per game).

      Boyle over his last two seasons: 41-64-105 in 84 games (1.25 per game).

      Jankowski over his last two seasons [still happening]: 20-33-53 in 62 games (0.85 per game).

      Nystrom over his last two seasons: 23-31-54 in 81 games (0.67 per game).

      You’ll note Nystrom was considered a draft bust and only turned into a fourth-line player. Boyle was a scoring monster who actually got moved to the blue line his senior season and still scored a ton, and become a very good third-line player. Hayes is still an unknown quantity at the NHL level but he’s regularly been scratched in his second year.

      So I dunno, that doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence that Jankowski makes the show and becomes useful.