FlamesNation Prospect Profile #11: Mark Jankowski

FN11

Way, way back in 2012, the Calgary Flames were in a much different place. Following the brief NHL debut of 2011 first round selection Sven Baertschi during the 2011-12 season, the hope was the Flames could get similarly immediate help in the 2011 cattle call.

Instead, the Flames traded down to recoup a previously-traded second round pick and selected relatively obscure forward Mark Jankowski – a forward who had absolutely dominated Quebec high school hockey and was headed to the NCAA. It was hardly the immediate help that Flames fans hoped for, and the pick didn’t exactly age well in light of 2013 and 2014 top picks (Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett) heading straight to the NHL.

But four full seasons after his selection, Jankowski is now under an entry-level contract and is finally going to be playing professional hockey. With a lot of intrigue and mystery surrounding him, Jankowski comes in as the 11th-ranked prospect on FlamesNation’s prospect rankings. He was #10 last year.

A brief history

The grand-nephew of hockey legend Red Kelly (and the grandson of former NHLer Lou Jankowski), Jankowski’s family has been involved in high-level hockey since forever. He opted to ply his trade growing up in Quebec prep school hockey (rather than the QMJHL or OHL), and he served as captain and put up a lot of points in his draft-eligible season. (Granted, you’d expect him to, but good work, I guess…)

The story goes that then-Assistant General Manager John Weisbrod was going to scout a game in Quebec, but his schedule freed up due to a crazy snowstorm. He called head scout Tod Button, who told him that he was near where Stanstead College – Jankowski’s team – was playing. Weisbrod went to that game instead… and fell in love with Jankowski’s raw skills. The Flames took him at 21st overall in the 2012 Draft.

Read more: The Flames are in a no-lose situation with Mark Jankowski

The message after Jankowski was selected was two-pronged: this kid is gonna be good, but he might take a while to get there because of how raw he is right now. (Some comparisons were made to Hockey Hall of Famer Joe Nieuwendyk…)

Read more: Setting expectations for Mark Jankowski

So Jankowski went to Providence College to learn under head coach Nate Leaman. He increased his point total every season he was at Providence. He learned how to be a reliable center. He won an NCAA Championship in 2015 and was named to the All-Tournament Team for his effective two-way play. He signed with the Flames following the end of his college season and joined the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat on a tryout, generating six points in eight appearances.

Read more: A final college update on Mark Jankowski

Quotable

Flames Player Development Coach Ray Edwards noted that one of the benefits of Jankowski’s four years in college was that it aided his physical development.

“He had to get into his body. When
they drafted him he was 175 pounds. He’s grown and he’s filled out,
but he’s really dug into off-ice training. I think right now he’s
somewhere close to 210 pounds and that was a goal for us to have him
for training camp.”

Stockton Head Coach Ryan Huska shared that he liked what he saw out of Jankowski during his brief tenure with the Heat.

“I was very impressed with him. When a guy comes in, and I don’t really know a lot about him… he was
at one development camp and that was the extent of my viewings of
him. I heard all along from our player development guys that he’s a
solid guy away from the puck. Sometimes he plays it a little bit too
safe but again, most coaches like that because he’s responsible. We
quickly saw that. I was impressed with how he played away from pucks,
but I was also impressed with his ability to see the play and make
plays. So by the end of his tenure with us, he was a guy that we used
in all key situations.”

Edwards’ assessment of Jankowski’s two-way play agreed with Huska’s, particularly in regards to the young forward’s attention to detail.

“They’re going to trust him. He’s a
really trustworthy guy. Give the coaches in Providence a lot of
credit; he understands detail, he understands positioning, he
understands defensive structure. And one of the toughest things,
having coached in the American League for a long time, when players
turn pro coming from amateur situations not a ton of them understand
that.”

Huska shared his excitement at seeing what Jankowski can do as a first-year pro.

“For me, you have a big centerman like that; if
he continues to get stronger, continues to work on his skating,
there’s great opportunities for a guy like that as well. So I’m
excited to see what he’s going to be able to do in his first year of
pro hockey because he did make a great impression on our staff.”

Edwards had praise for Jankowski’s ability to make plays in traffic and battle for pucks, though he did note that the competitiveness of pro players and the higher cost of battles in the high-rent areas (such as in front of the net, in the corners and in the faceoff circles) would be an adjustment for him.

“When you get to this level, the
juice gets higher. When you turn pro, it’s
a livelihood now, and people aren’t going to give that up. That’s the
thing I’ve been talking a lot to Mark about, understanding how
competitive it will get and to be an everyday player you’ve got to be
willing to do those things.”

What comes next?

The baseline expectation for Jankowski is likely him becoming at least a solid AHL center in his first season of pro hockey. Bear in mind that the Heat, in terms of established centers, have a lot of question marks after the departure of players like Derek Grant and Bill Arnold (and the mid-season trade that sent Markus Granlund to Vancouver), so he’ll get a lot of ice time.

Read more: Flames sign Mark Jankowski to entry-level deal, off to Stockton

But when you hear a lot of the comments about Jankowski’s physical readiness and how trustworthy he is, and you look at how thin the depth chart gets behind the four NHL centers, Jankowski’s probably a good training camp (or good start to the AHL season) and an NHL injury away from getting some NHL time this season.

Read more: Mark Jankowski has set his sights on the NHL

It’s a big year for Jankowski, who could still emerge as one of the organization’s top prospects with a good AHL season. Keep an eye on him.

Read more: FlamesNation Player Evaluations: Mark Jankowski

Previously

#20Ryan Culkin #19Linus Lindstrom
#18Morgan Klimchuk #17Mason McDonald
#16Brett Pollock #15Matthew Phillips
#14Dillon Dube #13Emile Poirier
#12Brett Kulak
  • ChinookArchYYC

    He’s been a lightening rod from the moment he was picked. To this point, I’ve been a consistent doubter and critic of the pick (from a too risky perspective). Going forward I just hope he becomes an everyday NHLer, anything more is just a bonus.

  • Longshot1977

    I’ve long seen Janko as a good candidate for #3 Centre. I’d say maybe a #2, but recent Flames picks suggest that Mark work get higher than 3rd on the Centre depth chart without something unexpected happening. This season might finally show whether that projection is realistic or not.

    With Backs current solid in the #3 role, I would love to see Jankowski get some time on the 4th line, with a taste of special teams or a bump up to the third or second line at times depending upon game situations. That is, of course, if he sees NHL time at all.

  • al rain

    Being critical of the pick is different from being critical of the player. And to be honest few of us have enough info on his playing to have an informed opinion of the player.

    If I’d read this profile never having heard of him before, I’d be optimistic. Looks like a decent asset.

  • Burnward

    His point totals may have been low, but it really sounds like Providence has prepared him well.

    Definitely happy with his progress so far. What a bonus if he hits.

  • Just.Visiting

    Wow! The Flames’ prospects are obviously much stronger than I’d thought that they were for him to come in at number 11, rather than somewhere in the 5-8 range that I was expecting.

    Janko is undoubtedly the most polarizing Flames’ prospect I’ve ever seen. This appears mostly because of the belief that he was picked way too high, that Jay and John W were way too smug with the pick with their smartest guy in the room attitude about it and Jay’s very unfortunate comments about Mark’s potential.

    When I look at the player and beyond the hole he was placed in by Jay, I see a very intriguing prospect with size, hands, smarts, skill and a two way game, who still has room to fill out.

    Notwithstanding that there are a lot of dud picks at the stage of the draft at which he was picked, that combination of attributes in someone just a little bit younger than Sean continues to be of great interest to me, and I was really happy that the Flames were able to sign him, that he accepted the Stockton entry and that he showed a mature game during his short time there before the end of the season.

    And he seems to have a positive, modest attitude with loyalty to the team, despite the pressure that had been placed on him because of those comments and the very strong opinions about his selection and development.

    Given two alternative views of the world in which he turns out to be a solid NHL player and good pick at that spot in the draft and one in which the opinion that he was a terrible pick is validated, I hope that he develops into a valuable member of the team who contributes materially to many long playoff runs.

    Sadly, there appear to be many who would much prefer to be proven correct that he was a terrible pick than see him succeed and the Flames benefit from his contributions.

    I look forward to watching Mark’s development and wish him every success.

    Looking forward to seeing how many trashes this post gets. LOL

    • supra steve

      “Sadly, there appear to be many who would much prefer to be proven correct that he was a terrible pick than see him succeed and the Flames benefit from his contributions.”

      That’s just it. Many are so set in that position…that Janko was a terrible pick. That if not for Janko, the Flames would have taken Maatta (who is starting to look like an injury/illness waiting to happen), even though there is no evidence that Maatta was their next choice. That if not for trading back from 14 to 21, the Flames were sure to select a sure superstar (Girgensons, Ceci, Wilson, Hertl, Teravainen, Laughton)?

      The draft has always been a gamble, I have watched far too many of them to have not figures that out. I have also figured out that the only list that matters is the one the Flames have put together…and it will always differ from the lists in The Hockey News, or McKenzie’s, or Button’s. Sometimes McKenzie gets it right, like when he criticized the Rico Fata selection back in ’98. Sometimes you take the consensus guy, like Dan Tkaczuk in ’97, and he turns out to be a bad pick. Sometimes you take a guy no one expects (Nieuwendyk at 27th in 1985, Gaudreau 104th in 2011) and he becomes a star. But more often than not…lately, the Flames have been making what appear to be wise selections. They deserve a little time and patience with the Janko pick, and it is starting to look like it was not such a bad pick after all.

    • Parallex

      I trash every comment that mentions the trash button except as a poll option (case in point I’m gonna trash my own comment just as soon as I’m done writing it). So you’ll get at least one.

  • RickT

    I feel as though if he can cement himself as an effective AHL centre this year – then he will project to be a Matt Stajan-type. Can move up and down the lineup a bit, defensively responsible, but not pretty.

    My dream for him would be a Backlund-type.

    I would buy a lottery ticket if he became what we were promised with Monahan. 6’+, 210lb two way centre that projects as a grade-A 2C, or a B 1C.

  • Parallex

    Here’s all I’ll say about Jankowski… everything is on him. He’s swung wildly from being disparaged to overvalued in parts of the interwebs. None of that matters… he’s a pro now and he’ll stand or fall on how he does as a pro.

    I think he’s in a pretty good spot. He’ll get plenty of ice-time in the AHL due to the minor-pro prospect purge and since we have a really nice 1-2-3 punch at the NHL level no immediate need to expedite his timeline. So he’ll get his reps in.

  • jupiter

    I remember Lamberts rants about Janko, and how poorly he was performing and how un-likely it would be to see him offered a pro contract by Calgary. His coach doesn’t trust him. He’s playing 10 min a game on the third line. Real prospect’s are playing on the first line, and they average this many points and there NHLE should be this or that.BLAH BLAH BLAH.

    Seems like some analyst’s have tunnel vision where performance data is the end- all truth.
    IMO they need to broaden there vision a little and realize that not every kids progress happens at the same rate. Management said right from the beginning that Janko was a long term project.

    This will be the year this kid breaks out and shows how flawed it is to rely on the performance data only.

    And yeah he should have been rated higher.

  • BurningSensation

    I am tickled pink that the organization actually followed through on the strategy they set out;

    1. Trade down to get extra assets
    2. Draft for skill, with an eye towards development
    3. Place in College, wait
    4. Wait more.
    5. Win a championship
    6. Monitor closely. Wait.

    Now Jankowski comes to camp with a really interesting toolbox that includes; size, strength, skating, playmaking, face offs, and defensive acumen. He’s now a very interesting emerging talent.

    Meanwhile, Yakupov is just about washed out of the NHL, and is openly being talked about as an expansion draft casualty.

    • supra steve

      WW, at one time, it was more or less universally agreed that you were a washed up high school chemistry teacher with no prospects or ambition for anything better than your part time job washing cars. Then you got motivated and you iced Crazy 8 and you blew up Tuco’s office! That was bad @55! You achieved so much more than many ever thought you could. And…that ricin trick, pure genius.

      Give Janko the same chance to succeed that you yourself were allowed, he may yet prove to be of some use to the Flames.

  • OKG

    Flamesnation Prospect Rankings are as ridiculous as Flames management ignoring the analytics on guys like Brouwer and Engelland.

    Unless you accidentally added via typo an extra digit to Janko’s rank. In which case go ahead and drop the extra one.

  • clib542

    Janko is still the same prospect he has been the last 4 years. Unless you believe the Feaster/Weisbrod “best player in 10 years”, there is nothing to get excited about until he proves otherwise.