Let’s appreciate Andrew Mangiapane.
When talking about the winger, I always like to defer to his junior teammate Brendan Lemieux. In their draft years, Lemieux scored 53 points in 65 games while Mangiapane scored 51 in 68. Lemieux was an early second round pick, while Mangiapane was passed over. In their draft +1 year, Lemieux scored 60 points in 57 games. Mangiapane scored 104 in 68. That was enough to get scouts’ attention, but Mangiapane still wasn’t picked up until the sixth round, fortunately by some very good folks.
I don’t mean to pick on Lemieux, he’s just a very convenient target to point out the dumb drafting biases that still exist in hockey. Despite having 14 more OHL games (209 total for Lemieux) on Mangiapane, he only had 189 points. Mangiapane had 210 in his final 127 games. Even with a six-game lead on the Breadman in the AHL, Lemieux still has three fewer points.
If you’re a draft nerd, it’s quite infuriating that Lemieux gets the benefit of the doubt for the usual reasons – good bloodlines, big size (even though he isn’t that big), “hard to play against” – while Mangiapane, who is extremely promising, gets passed on. Even after a 100-point season in the CHL’s toughest league, he was still overlooked until the sixth round.
The point is that Mangiapane is good, and has a really good chance of being good in the NHL. Based on his junior performances, many thought he could be up in the NHL for a significant chunk of this season. That hasn’t happened yet, but it does beg the question: when should we expect to see him?
The historical method
NHLe, the premier stat for prospect projections, offers more than just placing a prospect’s stats into context. Based on the performances of players that tracked similarly to the studied prospect, we can accurately offer a projection of how a prospect will perform. That is what we will do for Mangiapane.
Based on data from theprojectionproject.com, we looked at players who had similar or better years to Mangiapane’s draft +1 year when he recorded a 40 NHLe. We’re trying to cast a wide net. There were 50 such players who made the NHL (26 did not, and 14 of those guys are all too-early-to-tell players):
The asterisks signify that a player did not reach the NHL in a certain year because of a lockout (only applied to players who went to the NHL immediately after a lockout ended). The average distance from draft year to NHL arrival was first calculated without adjusting (a true method, as they got another year of development time without being paid by the owners) and an adjusted one, subtracting a year for players affected by 2004-05 lockout, and 0.5 for those affected by the 2012-13 lockout.
So what did the findings say? Players who recorded a 40+ NHLe in their draft +1 year took, on average, 2.36 years to make the NHL from their original draft year. Adjusting that number for lockouts, it only took 2.16 years.
Let’s further adjust that number. Let’s remove all of the players drafted in the top 10. The bonafide bluechippers who were probably only held out of the NHL because of college or Europe, and for whom a 40+ NHLe in the draft +1 year isn’t a huge surprise. When we do that, we have 34 players remaining who took an average of 2.79 seasons raw and 2.54 adjusted. A bit slower, but not far from the original parameters.
However, let’s take another huge step forward by cutting out all players drafted in the first round. By doing this, we reduce the list to players who are more like Mangiapane: an alright draft year followed by an explosive second year. When we make that adjustment, it takes 3.64 years to make the NHL, or an even 3.5 lockout adjusted.
One more wrench in the engine: since Mangiapane has put up back-to-back dominant seasons, we should consider the arrival dates of players who put up an NHLe of 40+ in their draft +1 year and a 47+ NHLe in their draft +2 years. Adjusting for that, we have only 12 players: Spezza, Heatley, Huberdeau, Vanek, Strome, Domi, Schwartz, Parise, Perry, Downie, Saad, and Stastny. Those guys took 1.79 years to get to the NHL, and 1.4 if you adjust for the lockouts.
That offers an interesting perspective: what if Mangiapane is already ready? However, we must consider that if we apply previous adjustments, only two (Saad and Stastny) remain. Certainly not enough to offer a conclusive arrival date.
So we have our parameters. Based on history, Mangiapane could optimistically be an NHL-calibre player by the halfway point this year. However, it is more likely that he takes another year of development before he’s ready.
There’s a few hurdles in his way, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Mangiapane, despite historical evidence, is not likely to play in the NHL this year. The team he currently plays for just sent three of their best (Vey, Shinkaruk, Hathaway) to the NHL to cover for injuries. In the next few weeks, all three will return to Stockton. If he’s going to replace a current Flame on the basis of injury, it’s going to have to be because of some catastrophe.
If he’s going to replace someone on the basis of merit, Mangiapane has to be doing something really impressive. No one is going to replace Gaudreau and Tkachuk on the left side. Ferland can probably be counted among the locks based on his play so far, which leaves only Bouma vulnerable. As an established vet who “adds” other things to the game, he probably isn’t moving unless he really puts up a stinker. And then Mangiapane would have to beat out Shinkaruk, another tough ask.
All of this is ignoring that the Flames probably want to keep Mangiapane down for the year so he can adjust to pro hockey. If you don’t need him up, don’t bring him up. Mangiapane is probably going to need another year or such of development, speaking both from a historical and a gut feeling perspective. He’s going to be a good player, but just not now.