Earlier this week, Mark Jankowski signed his entry-level deal with the Calgary Flames and an ATO for the AHL Stockton Heat, fulfilling the wishes of both player and club to arrive at a deal before the end of the regular season.
This came just a few days after the end of Jankowski’s college career, a double-overtime loss to Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAA tournament as his Providence College Friars pursued their second straight national title. It was not to be.
That, then wrapped up the frankly very odd career of Jankowski, who is already receiving considerable “Please ignore the draft position at which he was selected” talk from Flames brass. I think that’s a reasonable position for the organization to take, given that it wasn’t until this year that Jankowski really established himself as any sort of considerable force in most games he played, and even then, he was hardly as overwhelming as you’d like a first-round pick to be in his draft-year-plus-4.
The broad strokes
Let’s start with a big-picture assessment of Jankowski’s career. He finished with 110 points in 148 games, which isn’t a bad number or anything, but it was second on the team in his senior class behind winger Nick Saracino, who is admittedly two-and-a-half years older. Moreover, 40 of those points came in his senior season, meaning that he was a marginally effective depth scoring forward for the bulk of his career (70 points in 110 games).
Moreover, though, it’s important to look at the fact that there was never really a point at which he was dominant for a whole season, even if you accepted that he could have theoretically been unlucky in terms of production.
Look, a career-high season of 2.26 shots on goal per game is very much not-good. Among even just drafted or draft-eligible college players this season, it’s tied for 66th in NCAA hockey, a number that is behind a number of younger defensemen. We talk at length about how young Jankowski is — even after four years of college hockey he won’t be 22 until September — but he’s 11 months younger than Johnny Gaudreau. Over his last two seasons, Gaudreau reliably put four shots on goal per game, and that’s a number that was always near the top of the nation.
Of course, no one would say that these are comparable players, but shouldn’t they at least be in the same neighborhood in terms of their ability to generate offensive chances? Certainly, you’d expect a fourth-year first-round pick to have that much of an impact.
But again, this is a guy who finally broke 40 points in a season, which is an important threshold for any college player because it all but ensures they’d have put up roughly a point a game for the season. However, just among drafted players (and again, Jankowski would be older than most of them) his point total is just 14th in the nation, tied with UConn rookie and Arizona pick Maxim Letunov, who finished with more goals but slightly fewer shots on goal per game (2.11) on a much worse team that played fewer games.
But this is all stuff you can glean from the numbers if you know where to look. Actual in-game viewing is important at the college level, as it is for any prospect. But here too I found nothing with which to be particularly impressed, because as I’ve said before, Jankowski is used in a largely third-line role and occasionally takes important faceoffs because he is in fact pretty good at that (52.1 percent, and plus-48).
So yes, he did pretty well in possession and production this season, continuing and improving upon a trend from last season, but it was against down-the-lineup competition. I’d wager there wasn’t a senior picked in the first round in the entire nation who was used in such a fashion.
But before we get too deep into the numbers here, I should note something that I said which was a bit controversial from Jankowski’s final game. It was, again, a double-overtime thriller against Minnesota-Duluth, but he played just 2:14 of that time. As the game was going on, I noted on Twitter that this was evidence the player didn’t exactly have the full trust of the coaching staff in high-leverage situations, but after the game it turned out he was ill, to the point that he had to receive IV bags to recover.
That was my mistake, to some extent. I said that, though, because it was the second straight multiple-overtime game in which Providence had played, and the second-straight multiple-overtime game in which Jankowski was stapled to the bench for long stretches. A week prior, against UMass Lowell in the Hockey East semifinals, the Friars went deep into the third overtime, playing more than 52 additional minutes of hockey. In that more than 52 minutes, Jankowski played about 10:46 by my count, about 20.5 percent of the team’s TOI. That’s not a lot, and the fact that he was on the ice for the Lowell game-winner I thought might have played a role in the apparent decision to further curtail his ice time. It appeared to be more of a trend than it actually was, especially because prior to the overtimes, Jankowski had been taking a regular shift in both games.
Against Minnesota-Duluth, he played 11:39 of 46 minutes at 5-on-5 (25.3%) and against Lowell it was 13:33 of 58 (23.3%). Neither was wholly out of line with the observed season average I saw over nine games of Jankowski playing 24.6 percent of Providence’s full-strength minutes. So I was making an educated guess. Sorry if that made you mad.
Now, nine games of observation isn’t exactly the hugest sample — less than a quarter of his games — but I can say that all of them were against NCAA tournament teams (Lowell three times; Boston College and Boston University twice each; Northeastern and Duluth once each), so the quality of competition was fairly high. And again, he acquitted himself well, albeit against third-liners on NCAA tournament teams. He posted big relative margins at 5-on-5 in everything, especially goals, but also benefited from an on-ice PDO of more than 105, compared with 97 percent when he was off.
And again, this is competition he should have been pushing around pretty hard anyway, just given the existing disparity in quality between his skill level (high) and that of his on-ice competition (generally low).
Here’s all the data I have for you on what I saw this season:
(You’ll note that his non-goal events against per 60 were all above the team’s averages when he was off. That should be further concerning given that college third-liners were doing it to him.)
Break it down
So basically, I don’t see a lot of pro prospects for Jankowski. “Maybe the occasional NHL call-up” seems to be about his ceiling for me. Centers who shy away from contact, don’t appear to be trusted by coaches to reliably play against higher-level amateur competition (the average NCAA third-liner is probably an ECHLer at best, I would think), and can’t post more than two-and-a-quarter shots a night don’t strike me as being particularly to be impactful at the AHL level, let alone in the NHL.
I really just don’t see it. Maybe I’ll be wrong, but I’ve seen enough college players (this being my 23rd season watching the game closely at this level) to know what NHLers look like. Unfortunately for the Flames, Mark Jankowski ain’t it. And they might have been better off getting the compensatory mid-second-round pick.