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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski - USA TODAY Sports

Strong Saturday showing sends home Mark Jankowski’s NHL readiness

If there was any concern over how Mark Jankowski would react to starting the season with the Calgary Flames’ AHL affiliate Stockton Heat, he’s done his part to cast it aside.

Far from sulking, Jankowski has taken the demotion in stride and run with it. In three games with the Heat, Jankowski leads the team in scoring with five points (four goals and one assist) and has been a shot generation machine. He has at least one point in each of the three games he’s played.

Speaking to Sportsnet 960 after reassigning Jankowski, Flames general manager Brad Treliving admitted that he’s “ready to play,” adding that he just has to wait for an opportunity. If Jankowski keeps this up, though, we’re going to reach a point where Treliving will have to create that opportunity.

If you were fortunate enough to catch Jankowski play this Saturday, it was clear each time he had the puck on his stick how far ahead of the competition he is. His anticipation with the puck and his positioning away from it were evident on several occasions.

The goal was something. Jankowski finds a hole in the defensive zone coverage and gets to the side of the net untouched, burying his own rebound. What you might not have noticed from afar, though, was just how easy it would’ve been for Jankowski to add to his point totals with some of his creative setups for his linemates. With a little added luck, Jankowski could’ve left that game with three points.

And while it might be easy to scoff at Jankowski’s start and cry small sample for all to hear, that’s a disservice to the 23-year-old pivot who’s done nothing but earn his keep since turning professional.

As a first-year professional, Jankowski led the Heat in points last season with 56 (27 goals and 29 assists) in 64 games. He followed that up by dominating the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, before bringing the hot hand to Calgary Flames main camp. In five preseason matches, Jankowski had three goals.

When we view Jankowski’s last season through the pGPS (Prospect Graduation Probabilities System) metric, developed by Jeremy Davis to use historical comparables based on production and stature to draw an expected rate of success and NHL production, he checks out as having a gaudy 57.7% Exp. Success rate. Players in Jankowski’s cohort have an Exp. Points per 82 games of about 36, which checks out as roughly first line output.

The Flames knew when they took Jankowski in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft that he was going to be a five-year project. That’s the timeline I’ve heard that then-assistant general manager John Weisbrod, who was among the most vocal members of the Flames front office in favour of that pick, had in mind.

They’re now in year five of Jankowski’s development, and he’s proven ready to hit on that mark. All that stands in the way is a logjam at the bottom of the Flames lineup.

Tanner Glass and Freddie Hamilton, specifically, stand in Jankowski’s way. Sending down either of the two means hoping they clear waivers. The obvious candidate is Glass, who the Flames signed to a professional tryout ahead of the preseason, before coming to terms on a one-year deal at just above the league minimum.

That shouldn’t be as difficult an obstacle to clear as the Flames have made it. This isn’t a team that desperately needs Glass’ toughness, and given that his previous employer, the New York Rangers, was able to send him through waivers on multiple occasions in years past, I can’t imagine it will be any more difficult for the Flames.

The benefits should be so plain for all to see. Jankowski is 23 and given everything we’ve learned in the public sphere about player aging curves, right about to enter his prime physical years. He’s still on an entry-level contract, too. Contending teams like the Flames need affordable scoring depth at the bottom of their lineup, and in Jankowski, it’s more likely than not that they have one at their disposal.

It seems an inevitability that, at some point, Jankowski is going to land with the Flames this season. If he continues on his torrid pace with the Heat, he could force their hand sooner than later.

There is an argument, though, that waiting might not be in the Flames’ best interests. Calgary is a middle of the pack team by goal generation with top of the league aspirations. Every little bit helps.

    • Purple Hazze

      Agree with this, and I think the Flames do it, which is why he’s not on the team yet. Prior to the season starting on his Fan960 interview BT pretty much alluded to the fact that they don’t want Janko on the 4th line. They will wait to see how Bennett does as the third line center, but how long do they give him at that spot? 20 games?

      • CantstandyaOilers2

        Don’t understand why Freddie Hamilton is here! Will Dougie pout if his brother is not on the team, seems strange Freddie is here and Janko is not.

    • Kzak99

      Package Bennett and one of those d prospects (Kylington, ideally) for a decent RW, and then move Janko straight in to replace Bennett. We would get a nice, new RW and improve our third line C.

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      And Treliving’s favourite question is always; “How do we get better?”

      Well, I think most of us have figured out ONE way to do that…

      #freejanko

    • Eggs Bennett

      Please provide justification for this “objective” assessment. I am also 100% on board with giving Janko an opportunity at the big leagues, but he still has to show it at the NHL level before we can objectively conclude anything about which player is better.

      That being said… I think it is time to try moving Bennett to the wing and spark something. Watching his inability to use his speed to create time and space for himself and teammates while rushing up the middle is getting tiresome. As much as I hate to say it, this is something that Draisaitl does very well. I am hoping that Jankowski can be that big body centre to create space and allow speed on the wings to generate scoring chances.

    • dontcryWOLF

      That’s not something that can be stated objectively.

      Bennett may be struggling at the but level, but we have all seen him do really good things also. Who’s to say janko would do any better? I’m all for him getting his shot, but AHL success doesn’t mean he’s going to step into the NHL and be able to do the same thing.

    • Stu Cazz

      As you know Bennett was the highest pick in Flames history. Drafted by Treliving he is justifiably going to get lot’s of rope so the organization is going to be patient. I have to admit I am getting concerned….

  • Sven

    I’m kinda thinking that a team tied for 18th in per game league scoring that has been shut out
    twice in six games should be able to find a spot for a 6’4 210 lb 23 year old center
    with an NHLE of around 40 non?

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      All of that is true Sven, and I agree there isn’t a reason to hold him back-not really-but we are 4-2.

      So we get a couple of lines settled over the next few games because we have the breathing room to do so and then we slot him in somewhere.

      Anyways, he’s too promising to wait ’till Christmas, so it better be sooner than later.

    • oilcanboyd

      I don’t think Janko would have helped in the 6-0 game and he would have rubber legs in the opener against the oilers in D’Edmonton like the rest of the Flames…Having said that there are still some players that should be bench warmers on the team that Janko could replace.

  • buts

    Waive Glass? Who beat up Kassian and doesn’t take stupid penalties like Freddie….wrong wrong. Bring up Janko as 3rd line centre, put Bennett to the wing, put Lazar as 4th line centre, put Stajan in the press box, waive Freddie, get Kulak with Stone and watch this team take off.

  • Puckhead

    Janko is 23 and might have the best development curve of any player on the Flames. He showed amazing self discipline for a young man and took his time to get where he is at today. He is older for a rookie, plays a strong two-way game, and is well seasoned and ready to start his NHL career. Bringing Janko in is a low risk move with huge potential upside.

    It’s time. Free the poor guy. He’s more than earned it.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I think the Saddledome will be rocking when he eventually makes his debut. He has made believers out of many fans. I am hoping the 10 game mark will be the moment of truth.

  • Off the wall

    Well FN, I know this is a bit of topic, but I wanted to say I will miss Gord Downie. Truly a sad day for Canadians and fans.

    As Downie eloquently said, “Maybe we’re born lost, born to preserve”

    RIP, Gord!

  • Sven

    Stockton held to two goals tonight –

    and Jankowski still picks up two more points-


    small sample size to be sure

    but seven points in four games in the AHL is an NHLE of ……
    .
    around 60-70 isnt it?

  • The Sultan

    Well I gave the game a listen and it does seem like the Jankowski/Hathaway/Mangiapane is the only line that does anything… apparently Foo has a couple looks and from the sounds of it almost scored a couple times, still has yet to get his first peofessional point though.

    There was some sequence with the goalie losing his stick, a forward finally giving him one, then another breaking his stick which in turn led the goalie to pass the stick he just got… only to be scored upon moments later. Heat were snakebitten on the power play as well, I think it was 0/7 but I’m not sure. Stockton’s Finest should have a more in-depth rundown.

  • Sobueno

    Can you imagine if The Feast was right about this kid and he turned out to be the best pick of the draft in another 5 years? That’d have to be the most long-shot prophetic statement ever made on the draft floor. And amazing for the team. Not saying this is going to happen, but it’d be pretty damn hilarious.

  • freethe flames

    The question is how to best use Janko when they do call him up. In the off season I was calling for him to be given a chance on the LW with Backs/Frolik to catch him up to NHL speed but I no longer think that is needed. Do they need to move Bennett from center? This reminds of the debate around Grandlund under Hartley. They kept hoping that Granlund would become Backs junior at center and every time it did not go well he got sat down. Many on this site myself included said give him a chance on LW and it never happened so we traded him off to the Nucks and where has he had success? Playing LW and we have Shinkaruk who is not doing much in the AHL(remember when we thought we won that trade). So what to do with Bennett; I have said for a while now that I see his development as tracking to a similar way as Backs but it took Backs how long to become the player we see today 5/6/7 years of up and down hockey; great expectations and moments of excellence followed by who is this bum calls. In the end Backs has become our best 2 way center but even that is in part because they found him the right role and the right partner in Frolik. So where to play Janko and Bennett; personally I think together with Ferland as a hi-bread line somewhere between Backs and Monny’s line.

  • Sven

    “Tanner Glass and Freddie Hamilton, specifically, stand in Jankowski’s way. ”
    .
    .
    O M G
    .
    .
    possibly the most jaw dropping sentence posted on this blog


    kinda like saying the only thing keeping Margot Robbie from being crowned Hollywoods most beautiful actress are Rosie O’Donnell and ‘Fat Amy’ from Pitch Perfect……