Leading up to the regular season, we’re previewing a few key bubble players vying for opening night roster spots on Oct. 4. After taking a look at Curtis Lazar, we continue our series with Mark Jankowski.
On the Bubble: Jankowski rising up the ranks
Unfortunately for Jankowski, he has carried with him the burden of Jay Feaster’s tenure as GM of the Flames for the better part of five years. Feaster’s decision to draft Jankowski at #21 in the 2012 NHL Draft was scrutinized endlessly as too high of a reach for a player who would certainly be a long term project. The real sting coming from the fact that now two-time Stanley Cup champion Olli Maatta was still on the board.
While Jankowski has indeed taken his time to bloom, Feaster’s off-the-board selection may finally pay dividends this year.
Originally a wiry 6’3 and 170 lb teenager, Jankowski now looks like a true hockey player at 6’5 and 220 lbs. He has skyrocketed to the top of the Flames’ prospect rankings, and Brad Treliving recently had many good things to say about him in his interview with Bob McKenzie. Treliving was impressed with Jankowski’s rookie season in the AHL last year, and suggested that he should be pushing for a regular spot in the lineup.
Jankowski really did have a great rookie season. His first as a pro, he scored 27 goals and 56 points, was 15th in AHL scoring, and was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team. He has developed and improved steadily through the NCAA and into the AHL, and looks poised to advance to the NHL ranks.
His first real test coming off of summer was at the Young Stars Classic in Penticton. Playing on a line with Spencer Foo and Andrew Mangiapane, Jankowski looked excellent and simply dominated at times. In training camp, he has been practicing between Mangiapane and Troy Brouwer. He looked great in the split-squad game against Edmonton on Monday, hitting a couple posts before finally finishing off a slick Dillon Dube pass shorthanded in the third period.
From what Treliving has said so far, it appears that Jankowski’s spot on the roster is his to lose. The only caveat there though, is that Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, and Sam Bennett are locks to be the top three centers this year and probably for many more years down the road, so if Jankowski is to play center going forward, it means that other centermen, including Stajan and Dube, likely won’t have a place in the middle of the ice.
Jankowski hasn’t really spent much time on the wing throughout his career thus far, and though that could change, the team is known for sticking to developing their players at their natural position. This is evidenced by their treatment of Bennett, and one would think that they would prefer to keep Jankowski in the middle as well.
He does have just one year of professional hockey under his belt, so it might not be the worst idea to give him one more year in Stockton and watch him potentially lead the league in scoring and work on his game a little bit more. The jump to the NHL is not an easy one, and he could benefit more from playing a top role in Stockton as opposed to a reduced one on the fourth line in the NHL.
Why Jankowski should make the lineup:
- He was one of the top AHL players last season as a rookie.
- He’s looked good through Penticton and the preseason thus far.
- He’s a big body center who plays a 200-foot game.
Why Jankowski shouldn’t make the lineup:
- With only one professional season of experience, he could be better off with an elevated role in Stockton.
- His leadership can develop much more in Stockton.
- The Flames don’t really have much of a vacancy at center unless Stajan sits.
Up Next: Spencer Foo