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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects: #6 Mark Jankowski

It’s hard to recall a first round selection in recent Calgary Flames history that has been met with more continuous hand-wringing than Mark Jankowski. Short of situations where the team traded away a pick, Jankowski’s selection has been criticized, analyzed and occasionally eviscerated by many of those that follow the team – including often by the site you’re currently reading.

While it’ll take awhile for him to catch up to Olli Maatta in terms of National Hockey League games played or impact, Jankowski has quietly withstood the slings and arrows of being a controversial first round selection. He earned a degree from Providence College, won an NCAA Championship and had a very strong first professional season.

Knocking on the door for an NHL job this fall, Jankowski has improved from an 11th ranking last year and lands sixth on this year’s prospect rankings.

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A brief history

It’s probably safe to say that a lot of the derision of Jankowski’s selection in 2012 came from two sources: (1) they passed on Finnish uber-defenseman Olli Maatta twice (at 14th overall when they traded down and at 21st overall when they selected Jankowski) and (2) the hyperbole and stories surrounding the selection seemed to beg for eye-rolling reactions from the peanut gallery.

The highest-ever pick out of a Quebec high school, the legend went that the Flames fell in love with Jankowski after then-assistant general manager John Weisbrod drove through a snowstorm to see him play.

In December, he happened to be in Quebec to see another prospect — who, because of injury, ended up not playing. That left Weisbrod with a gap in his schedule. Button told him to fill it with a trip up the highway to see Jankowski.

So Weisbrod pointed his rental car into a blizzard — and away he went.

Beyond the kid’s name, he knew little.

“I can tell you I was in a bad mood — I was driving two and a half hours through snow,” said Weisbrod. “But by the middle of the second period, I was laughing out loud by myself in my seat.”

The Flames liked Jankowski enough that they had a stitched-on namebar for his draft jersey. He was simultaneously touted as a longer-term project (due to his lanky frame) and a potential Joe Nieuwendyk clone. The bar was set really high for a kid who had only really played Quebec high school hockey.

Jankowski headed off to Providence College as part of a pretty large freshman class in 2012 and got to work. He was a fairly productive freshman and sophomore in his first two seasons, posting respectable numbers but hardly blowing the doors off with his production. The beginning of his most impressive college run arguably began in the 2015 NCAA postseason, as he caught fire during the conference playoffs and eventually was named an NCAA tournament all-star as he helped Providence College capture their first NCAA Championship.

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He continued his momentum as a senior, scoring over a point-per-game and being named both a Hockey East conference all-star and a Second Team All-American. He followed that up with six points in eight games for Stockton on a tryout following his signing with the Flames. Given his college success, his draft stature and how long everyone had been waiting for him to play a pro season, expectations were high for his first full season in Stockton.

Even given those expectations, Jankowski performed quite well. He had a share of the team lead in scoring with Linden Vey – an experienced pro – and led the AHL in goals scored by a rookie and was named to the All-Rookie Team. (Granted he was competing with players who were called up to the NHL mid-season, including Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel.) He spent a week in the NHL and made his debut in November against the Islanders. By the end of the season, much of the action on the ice for Stockton flowed through Jankowski.

Quotable

Calgary Flames development coach Ray Edwards had a pretty straight forward assessment of Jankowski’s impressive first pro season.

He was excellent. I don’t know how else to say it. What he does, he’s able to handle so many responsibilities: whether it’s penalty kill role, faceoff role, power play role, top matchups, he saw it all. Give Ryan [Huska] and his staff a lot of credit, they really worked with Mark with being more competitive on the puck, more competitive without the puck. It was a big part of his growth, understanding when you’re competing against men you’ve got to find another level and I think that was one of Mark’s biggest gains last year.

Edwards added that Jankowski is working on his strength and skating, hoping to add pace and quickness to his game over the summer.

Stockton Heat head coach Ryan Huska shared Edwards’ enthusiasm for Jankowski’s first pro season.

I think for us, we have a lot of confidence that we could use him in all sorts of situations. Not just offensive situations, but he’s probably our most reliable centerman that we had in regards to defending as well where he cares about not being on the ice when a goal’s scored against us, he doesn’t want any part of that so he makes good decisions. I think he’s a calculated young man, where all the decisions that he makes he’s got a plan. He stayed in school for a reason; he wanted to make sure he was ready when he turned pro. I think there was always a belief in himself that when he came here for his little stint last year, he had a feel for it and he had an understanding of where his game needed to be to have success. When he came back last year, I think he was ready for it and he was put in situations where he was able to have success.

What comes next?

By virtue of having a strong first AHL season, having dipped his toe in the NHL waters a bit and having established himself as the Flames’ best (perhaps only) pro center prospect, Jankowski is expected to push for a Flames roster spot this fall. He turns 23 during training camp, so he’s still pretty young, but the hope is probably that he continues his upward trend from the last couple years and adds another gear to his game. As it stands right now, he’s probably a fringe NHLer, but he could become more if he keeps improving.

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Previously

#20 – Ryan Lomberg #19 – Adam Ollas Mattsson
#18 – Daniel Pribyl #17 – Eetu Tuulola
#16 – Adam Ruzicka #15 – Emile Poirier
#14 – David Rittich #13 – Hunter Shinkaruk
#12 – Matthew Phillips #11 – Jon Gillies
#10 – Morgan Klimchuk #9 – Andrew Mangiapane
#8 – Dillon Dube #7 – Spencer Foo


  • BlueMoonNigel

    I don’t know why no Flames centre prospect in a long, long time has been a killer on faceoffs.

    Joel Otto insists that being above average at faceoffs is a learned skill, not inherited behaviour.

    If Janko can be an above average faceoff man, he’ll not only make the Flames this season, he’ll enjoy an NHL career for at least a decade.

  • Skylardog

    The issue with Janko being picked has always been that he could have been selected in the second, or possibly even the 3rd round. I don’t think anyone ever questioned whether he could develop into an NHLer, but he was far from ready to be one. This was a project, and a first rounder should never be a project with this kind of long term payoff. They are supposed to be near ready players.

    We wasted a first round pick on him, and I do believe he would have been there for us to pick in round 3.

    I have never been a fan of his because of this. But I have had him pencilled in the lineup all through the offseason. During his one NHL game so far I said it was a token gift to let him play a game as a reward for doing what was asked of him, but I also said then, that it would be his ONLY NHL game ever. Hoping I was wrong. Looks like a shoe in for a spot this season.

    • OKG

      A first rounder should be whichever player among available players has the highest chance of being the best NHL player 8-10 years from now. You never draft for immediate need or shortest-timeline.

      Also you have no idea if he would have been available in the 2nd round. Arizona, New Jersey, and Florida were all rumoured to want him in the 1st.

      • Skylardog

        Flames took a flyer – Notables picked after 14th that have made strong contributions to their NHL teams. Ceci, Tom Wilson, Hertl, Vasilevskiy, Maatta. Vasilevskiy really catches my eye given what the Flames have been through with goalies over the past few years. I get you want to look for a diamond in the rough, but to pass on a 14th overall pick in the 1st round talent to pick a guy that is ranked 40th is a mistake. They could have taken Ceci and then still likely picked up Janko at 44. And if you missed him, no big deal. You got a guy that is playing in the NHL years before Janko.

        • TheoForever

          A lot of crystal ball here. Ceci, Wilson is that what we need 20 point guys? Maatta hasn’t gotten better in a while now. Janko could be better than any of those guys. Man you got a lot of hatred for this pick.

  • Just a little offside

    I’m optimistic about Janko. I think he is going to become a player. Blake Wheeler like progression over the next 7 seasons. Wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him get 40+ points on Backlund’s wing.

  • Raffydog

    Hopefully some of these prospects actually pan out. With Guadreau and Monahan already regressing, and Bennett falling off a cliff, we’re gonna need some internal help.

    • TheoForever

      No prospects of value, other than bust trending Pulju. Bottom rated prospect group after a decade of sucking.
      # 26 ranked D. One playoff appearance in 11 years on the back of Talbot and a bubble about to burst.
      How are RNH, Yak, and Hall regressing? With this track record, McDonkey must be terrified of having his career ruined by coiler org., it is like an infection that spreads among oiler golden ping pong balls.

      • madjam

        Let us put Oilers in a proper perspective . Take Oilers offence – one of tops in league and plenty of growing yet to look forward to . Oilers have 4 forwards with big contracts and will have little trouble with cap seeing as Chia has done an incredible job of surrounding those four with one of best supporting castes at an incredible cheap price . Next highest paid Oiler forward is R.Strome at a measly 2.5M . Flames should be so lucky or as good with their management team . Oilers have a good prospect group that Chia once again has restocked and continues to do . Flames goaltending still suspect . Only the Flame defence I would rate slightly better than the Oilers . Oilers much deeper and better than you give them credit for , or recognize .

        • TheoForever

          And yet Flames cap management is rated better than oilers, and we should be so lucky. Where do you get this stuff? In fact, cap management is one of main Chia’s problems, you are rated near the bottom. Your cap problems will start next year. Lucic 6×6, Sekera 4 more years at 5.5 million, russel 4×4, you paying 3rd line RNH center 6 million. Fayne burried in AHL 3.625 million is funny considering how you guys were pumping his tires.
          Half your roster will need a new deal in a year or two, including Talbot.
          Your own writer even said that all the AHL additions were journeymen with no upside because your poorly rated prospect pull is just that, poor. If you look at their history, he is right. So, how did he restock it?
          Can you tell me which roster forward players have all that room to grow?

    • Cheeky

      Enough! Ever FLAMES blog doesn’t need Coiler intervention. Yes you had a great season (after so many bad) and you have a star player that will become the best until the next one. We all might as well give you the Stanley and all the individual awards and forfeit the season (no need to play whereas all you trolls think your team will go undeafed and McJack and Drysad will score 300 points each). If you lot come out lighting it on fire for first quarter season then ok, if not then SHUT THE [email protected] UP!

  • freethe flames

    I have said since he was drafted give the young man a chance. His future is in his hands. I believe he will make the team this year but my beliefs are just that; it’s up to him to grab the opportunity. Good luck to him.