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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

Prospect wrap-up: Mark Jankowski

Turning promise into production has been goal #1 for Mark Jankowski, first round pick of the 2012 draft. Ever since Jay Feaster made his infamous declaration, the centre has been a lightning rod for controversy.

It’s been a long time coming. After some mixed reviews in college, Janko came flying out of the gate in the AHL and is oh-so-close to the NHL. Is the 10-year plan finally paying off?

Brief history

Jankowski, the highest player ever drafted out of a Canadian high school, went to Providence College for four years of hockey. After so-so freshman and sophomore years, he began gaining notoriety in his junior year after Providence went on a Cinderella run and upset heavy favourite Boston University to win the NCAA title. Janko won a nod for the all-tournament team for his effort in the Frozen Four.

His senior year received more hype. He won an all-conference team nod and was also named to the second NCAA all-American team. He signed with the Flames after a shocking loss in the first round of the tournament and put up an exciting AHL ATO campaign, scoring six points in eight games.

2016-17 performance

GP-G-A-P Primary Points 5v5 P1 NHLe
64-27-29-56 45 27 34.44

All around, pretty good. I wouldn’t be too concerned about that low 5v5 primary points tally. Janko was a key element of Stockton’s powerplay (which was 21st in the league. Scary to think what it would be without him) and found a lot of points shorthanded.

He also led AHL rookies in goals, although his shooting percentage was a bit high for his career average, 17.31%. Perhaps he was facing easier goalies in the AHL than in college (of qualified goalies, the average SV% was .909), but he certainly does have a sharpshooting edge to him. His average, career wise, is 14.62%, so adjusting for that is five fewer goals, not that significant. If he makes the jump, expect that SH% to go down even more.

A running theme throughout Stockton Heat player wrap-ups is the slight dip that correlated to a terrible losing streak when 2017 began.

Janko was the beam of light which remained steady. Although his points total did slow down, he was steadier than many of his teammates. When the entire team got back into gear, Jankowski was scoring at a point-per-game pace towards the playoffs.

I guess the one concern would be the fact that his NHLe did not grow substantially from college to the AHL. The idea that he would be freed from defensive hockey appears to be true in his scoring numbers; however, he seems unable to break past the reality of what his NHLe suggests. A 30+ NHLe is good for a prospect in their draft year. For a player five years removed, not so much.

Cohorts and comparables

Any which way you cut it, Jankowski’s AHL season was great.

But the question becomes a matter of how well that will translate to the NHL. There’s quite a handful of players who have scored similarly at that age and done nothing afterwards. It’s not that uncommon to be great in the AHL five years removed from your draft year. Between 2005-06 and 2014-15, there have been a nice 69 AHLers between the ages of 21.5 and 22.5 (relative to Sept. 15. Janko is 22.005, by this measure) who have scored at a per game rate within 10% of what Jankowski scored this season (so, between 0.8 and 0.96). Here’s the full list of comparable players.

The results are not promising. Of the 69, only 26 went on to play more than 200 games (benchmark for what can be considered an established NHLer), or 38%. Of those successes, they scored at about a 0.42 PPG rate, which is around third-liner status. So if he defies the historical odds in making it, he will likely fall into the lower spectrum of NHL point production. Based on six of the 26 successes who went on to score higher than 0.5 PPG at the NHL, hitting the league and going above that measure has a whopping low 8% chance.

Historically, the chances of him breaking out into the superstar Jay Feaster imagined are very low. The data lines up nicely with his NHLe performance, suggesting that his ceiling is likely that of a third line centre.

Final thoughts

The narrative attached to Janko was that he would prove the doubters wrong and be even better the next year. He’s going to hope that rings true more than ever.

Part of the major risk surrounding him was the very small window in which he has to establish himself as an effective NHLer. When his contract runs out, he’ll be on the verge of 24, when most NHLers start to enter their prime. If he isn’t an NHLer by then, it’s likely never going to happen.

And come next training camp, that window will be extremely tiny and on the verge of closing. What applies to Hunter Shinkaruk applies to Jankowski. There might be one open spot on the roster and many people vying for it. There’s even less room at the centre position, where the Flames have three better options (two of them younger) in Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, and Mikael Backlund. If those comparables hold true, he’s not going to replace any of those guys next year.

The only centre he can replace is Matt Stajan, but that’s not as easy a task as it seems. Stajan is still trusted and relied upon by the coaches, and his underlying numbers suggest that he’s not an active detriment to the team. Unless Stajan gets claimed by Las Vegas, there’s four established centres. This gets even more complicated when you remember that Curtis Lazar exists and is a natural centre. If Stajan goes, the competition is between Jankowski and Lazar, and gut feeling says Lazar gets that spot. Again, tiny window.

It’s all going to be a mess that won’t be resolved until September. If a bottom six spot is available, there’s going to be a fierce battle for it. Jankowski is the front runner right now just off of name value and his 2016-17 season, but he also has the most to lose. If he’s cut from the team, it’s probably over.

Previously

Hunter Shinkaruk, Rasmus Andersson, Kenney Morrison, Tyler Wotherspoon, Oliver Kylington, Stepan Falkovsky, Keegan Kanzig/Mason McDonald, Ryan Culkin/Brett Pollock, Mitchell Mattson, Adam Fox, Brandon HickeyRiley Bruce/Nick Schneider, Tyler Parsons, Eetu Tuulola, Matt Phillips, Dillon Dube, Adam Ollas Mattsson, Linus Lindstrom, Pavel Karnaukhov/Rushan Rafikov, Tim Harrison

  • mcardoza

    Man you had me excited and then in an instant you took it away. Good article but still have hopes for jankow. Maybe it’s the underdog theme I enjoy when it comes to him.

  • kid presentable

    nice article. if he turned into another bonino or silfverberg or kadri, well, we would be laughing. hope he comes closer to the exceptions than to the average cohort comparables

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    The Flames need Janko to pan out as much as Janko needs the Flames. If the Flames go int the season thinking that there are only a couple of spots opened then they have failed in the off season . There is no reason to play inferior players just because the are under expensive contracts.

    Despite the fact that Janko’s NHLe has not improved he has made significant improvement every year and there is no indication that it will stop when he hits the NHL. I imagine Janko is now able to put some muscle on his frame which could get him to Getzlaf or Drai size. If Janko does not flourish it is because he has been pigeon holed by the organization and playing with weak linemates.

    • al rain

      Really? If Janko does not flourish it’s all someone else’s fault? I’m pulling for him, as you would with any Flame prospect, but the possibility remains that he’s just not good enough.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        All the talk about being a 4 th line Center has a way of lowering expectations for the organization but it should not be for a first round long term project. If the Flames want to ease him into the league put him with Backlund and Frolik Don ‘t burry him on the fourth line where he will struggle to get points and all the critics can say, I told you so.

        I still don’t think any of the current flames not names Johnny, Monny, Backlund, Tkachuk, and maybe Bennett would have had as strong and well rounded season as Janko did on an offense challenged team like the Heat.

        Another year in the AHL is a waste. I am not sure he could have done much more in his Rookie season in the AHL. I think it is time to reward him especially ahead of players like Lazar.

        • al rain

          You know, I don’t disagree (or agree, particularly) with any of your conclusions. But your statement ” If Janko does not flourish it is because…” assumes that you know a lot about the future that I don’t think you actually know. I just disagree with bad reasoning.

          • Jumping Jack Flash

            Feel free to disagree or agree…. That is the beauty of the posting environment. It is riddled with assumptions and speculation. The only thing I can bring to the conversation is the fact that I am a lifelong Flames fan…that has seen the good and the no so good.

            At first I was rooting for the kid because of all the negative press he was getting. I like that he continues to prove people wrong and will continue to believe.

      • jakethesnail

        Last 2 sentences…
        “Jankowski is the front runner right now just off of name value and his 2016-17 season, but he also has the most to lose. If he’s cut from the team, it’s probably over.”

        • Christian Roatis

          I mean, I think Christian just means that if Jankowski doesn’t make the team this year, his chances of becoming something of an impact NHLer diminish close to 0. Not that his career is over.

        • Well:

          1. At the very least, if he doesn’t make the team next year, previous decisions from the team indicate that they won’t re-sign a 23 going on 24 AHLer regardless of production (see: Kenny Agostino, Derek Grant, Drew Shore etc)

          2. Players who are 23-24 and haven’t made the league have a very low chance of ever making the league. That applies to everyone.

          • canadian1967

            Agostino was a LW not a C and had 2 full seasons in the AHL before being let go, not to mention Agostino was a full year older than Mark will be at the end of next season.

    • ThisBigMouthIsRight

      My thoughts too, but mine where much more long winded. Well, at least your opinion didn’t get removed like mine did… I guess its easier to remove a comment than defend against it. Ryan Huska on Mark Jankowski ~> “Huska has been impressed by how Jankowski takes feedback and responds to it immediately and positively. I’m a fan of the way he plays the game,” said the coach. “He’s an intelligent player and maybe my favourite part about him, you can challenge him to raise his level and I haven’t been disappointed once when we’ve done that to him. He’s always responded the right way.” courtesy from – flames from 80 feet above-

  • FLT

    There’s an error in the point total portion of the table – he had 56 total points not 64. And if 45 of those 56 points were primary, I think that’s a pretty solid ratio?

  • class1div1

    You could add me to a list of very disappointed Flames fan if Jankowski isn’t given a fair shot in September. I’ll end being a fan of whatever team is smart enough to grab him. He’s still growing, and improving. Not sure why he didn’t see a little more NHL ice last season, but would agree that it shows BT isn’t that high on this player.Putting Lazar ahead of Janko would be a mistake.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I really like Tre but his ability to assess talent is not his strong suit. He does a lot of things really well. With that said, I think the Organization is high on Janko.

    • Avalain

      Honestly, I think that part of the reason why he didn’t see very much of the NHL is because the team stayed quite healthy, especially at the end of the season where he would have been more likely to be chosen.

  • Sol Goode

    I would keep him up and slot him on the 4th line with Lazar and Stajan. Have Lazar and Janko alternate depending on what side of the ice the face off is on. Stajan can take his spot if he is getting killed at the dot.

  • Newbietwo

    The guy was rated second best Ahl player this past season.. don’t tell me he isn’t good enough because he damnwell is.. he’s much more than good enough and who ever thinks otherwise is smoking something illegal

  • L13

    “I wouldn’t be too concerned about that low 5v5 primary points tally.”

    And neither should you, given that Jankowski’s estimated P1/60 at 5v5 was 3rd in the AHL among all skaters with more than 40 GP (and 5th if you lower the GP requirement to 20). But I assume you knew that…

  • freethe flames

    As I have said before I would give Janko a chance to play with Backs and Frolik. Everything we have heard about his game suggests he would be a good fit there. Then play Bennett and Tkachuk together with Versteeg if he resigns and suddenly you have 3 lines that can play. Create a 4th line with Stajan/Lazaar/Chaisson(Hathaway) and you could have a modern day 4th line. If Stajan is taken in the expansion draft then give one of Shinkaruk/Mangiapane/Klimchuk a look. It is time to see which of these guys can play at this level.

  • Raffydog

    The one game he played was very unimpressive, at that point of your career you have to give the team a reason to keep you up, he didn’t do that. Just another middling depth player that the Flames seem to have an abundance of.

    • Cfan in Van

      He was fine, just not great. First year in the A and he’s still developing. Can’t judge a prospect on a single game, just like you can’t judge an oilers troll on just one post…

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        I don’t know many players that light it up in their first game in the NHL in a bit role. He was getting better but the team was not playing well . The need to give him 20 games to see what he can do.

  • Puckhead

    From what I understand, Janko sounds like a well-rounded player (like a Backlund 2.0). Does this sound like the correct assessment. If so, I think he will easily transition into GGs system.

    Also, I’ve noticed a number of people suggest putting him on the wing (I.e., with Backs and Fro). He is a centre. Does he have much experience on the wing? If Stajan is not picked up by Vegas the only openings will be on the wing.

    • SydScout

      Pretty sure Staj can play wing with a high level of competency. Sol Goode had Janko C with Lazar and Stajan. I’d like to see how that goes, allows for development of a couple of kids on the 4th line. Something that we need (the space!) to do better

    • freethe flames

      My reasoning for having him play the wing to start is to have him develop in the NHL, many young centers play the wing to start with, I also heard an interview with him in that he has played some wing at University. This would not hurt his development. Playing with Backs he will take some face offs and this will also help in his development. His game by accounts includes a solid 200 foot game with offensive upside; playing with Backs and Frolik he will develop all aspects of his game. This will help him more than being a 4th line center it will also help the team as well.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        I have only seen Janko pay a handful of games. I watched him play on TV in the National Championship the year Providence won and thought both he and Gillies were good. I also watched the the Young Stars tournament where he stood out. Finally, I watched him play in the AHL Playoffs in game seven against San Jose again he stood out. He is not going to be a game breaker but he impresses me with his vision and passing. He has a very fluid skating stride and moves well. He is hard to move off the puck and after watching Getzlaf and Drai…it is something every team could use.

    • AFAIK, Janko has never been a winger throughout his entire career. He’s a pure centre. The transition to wing should be easy, but I just don’t think his talents will be best used there. Plus, there’s a glut of wingers already so one more doesn’t seem to help anyone.

  • Just.Visiting

    One of the biggest weaknesses I’ve seen in roster management for years is the reluctance to provide a full opportunity for the less obvious prospects to prove themselves vs bringing in another veteran with limited upside. Pittsburgh, Chicago and Detroit, for example, have done a good job of using their pipeline of talent over time, and it’s something that we need to take much more seriously now that we finally have some viable prospects in the system. To move to the next level, we need to cycle in guys like Janko, Ras, Gillies/Rittich, Lazar, Hathaway and stop bringing in bandaid veterans who eat up ice time that should be used for developing our own talent who we need to succeed if we are to move to the next level. As another commentator noted today, I hope that Brad locks his phone away on July 1st.

    • class1div1

      Exactly. NHL coaches however want tight defensive hockey, and don\t want to chance moving the young guys in unless they absolutely have to. The game is becoming textbook boring. Entertainment value is less every year. The entertainment has become the officiating.

  • MarbledBlueCheese

    Todd Cordell (who writes for the deplorable HockeyBuzz but seems to know his stuff) points out that Jankowski’s WAR stats place him at the top of the entire AHL.
    I’ve been low on this pick ever since it was made but would love to eat crow about it. I’m also sick of the “who will he replace?” thoughts, as the bottom 6 of the Flames all make 50% too much cash at minimum. Shinkaruk and Jankowski and Klimchuk and so on would make the Flames so much better not based on their own results so much but based on the cap flexibility this would allow for.

    • Sol Goode

      Do like pittsburgh did and bring in a group of ahl prospects and play them together. We could bring up Janko, Shynkaruk, and possibly Klimchuk. Slot them on the 4th line together and give them 8 – 11 minutes a night. Play them on pp and pk if we manage to have a big enough lead.

  • It has been said before but if this guy wasn’t drafted in the first round and given the label “he will be the best in the draft class in *years” that we would not be that excited about him nor piling up lofty expectations on him. He seems like a nice player and may well be a 3rd or 4th line guy. Not sure why many choose to ignore the numbers. People before him with similar numbers and age just don’t stand a great chance of being impactful players. NOTHING AGAINST HIM as a player or personally it is just reality. I have always said that I hope I am proved wrong. Still do.

  • #97TRAIN

    I think Jankowski will become a regular NHL player but not the best player in his draft year like Feaster said.
    He plays at least 30 games for the Flames next season . Maybe flat out makes the team for the whole year.

  • smatic10

    I’ve read the article and all the comments. I have one main thing to say…..do not sleep on this kid. He will not be a game breaker but man he does a lot of things well. Think of him as a young Stajan with better skating, passing and shot. I think he can bring a whole new dimension to our third line as soon as next year. Give him some PP time and make him play on the goal line. Make him take faceoffs. I am sick and tired of our bottom 6 being an abysmal collection of over the hill guys with limited offensive ability. Put in the Lazar’s, Klimchuk’s, and Jankowski’s of the world. Take out the Stajan’s, Bouma’s and Brouwer’s.

    • Flames Fan in Edmonchuck

      What is it that those British guys in parliament say? “Here, Here!” seriously, Goaltending and a top forward, a top 4 d-man are all really important for next year, but if we could upgrade each of Stajan, Bouma and Brouwer that would do just as much or more.

    • ThisBigMouthIsRight

      and Versteeg on their RW. Both Benny & Janko can switch off Center/LW Duties. Versteeg has the play making ability above the average 3/4 line plug. or Ferland if the Flames grab a true high end 1st line RW this off season.

  • Parallex

    I think Jankowski spends 1 more year in Stockton. No fault of his but the Flames just don’t look to have any open spots for him.

    They didn’t acquire Lazar for him to sit.
    They’re not going to keep Jankowski up only to have him sit.

    He’s going to have to wait a year until Bouma and Stajan’s deals expire or hope that Treliving can find the sucker at the table that thinks Brouwer would be a good add. I’m sure he’ll be among the first guys called up in case of injury but he’ll have to wait for an opportunity to stick full-time.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I think that would be a mistake. There is a fine balance between seasoning and over seasoning. I often wonder what kind of player Poirier would have been in the NHL if he was promoted after his strong AHL year.

      Drai got sent back to juniors when he couldn’t stick with the Oilers his first year…. Bout it seemed to work for him. The flip side is a player like Pulljarvi who did not impress in the NHL and was slightly better in the AHL.

      I think it comes down to what the player is willing to sacrifice in the summer to put himself in the best position to crack the ream. I have no doubt thT Janko will outplay Lazar, Bouma, Stajan, and Hamilton in training camp…. I am just not sure that will win him a spot.

  • McRib

    “Of the 69, only 26 went on to play more than 200 games (benchmark for what can be considered an established NHLer), or 38%.”

    If you look at the most recent seasons on this comparable list from 2012-2014, it clearly produced the largest proportion of “good players” on this list. Kadri, Silverberg, Miller, etc will all end up as good NHLers, which speaks to the impressiveness of Jankowskis numbers in 2017, because it clearly is a lot harder to put up the points he did in the AHL now, compared with even five or six years ago.

    Jankowski is also still underdeveloped for this age group and will likely add another 10-15 pounds this offseason. I can’t seem him being anything worse than a decent third line centre at this point.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Good observation. I look at some of the players like Fata and Tzachuck who flopped because the analytics were not fully understood and the eye test was the only indicator. I see a lot of Thornton and Johanson in his game…pass first Centers with good vision and can play rugged when needed.

  • Just.Visiting

    I just watched a Stockton Heat interview with him on another site. I was shocked at how much he has filled out! I was also impressed with how he carries himself.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Yah…one thing that is never brought up is his genealogy. I seem to remember that his Dad and Grandad or great grandad? were high level athletes. His uncle is a prominent hockey official. He has been born and bred to meet and exceed challenges