61Mangiapane and Andersson
Photo Credit: Candice Ward/USA Today Sports

The secret’s out: why Andrew Mangiapane is (quietly) the Flames’ best player

Andrew Mangiapane was not a highly touted prospect in his draft year. He wasn’t ranked and wasn’t drafted. In 2015, his second year of eligibility, he was a sixth round pick. Calgary Flames interim coach Geoff Ward noted to the media on Wednesday afternoon of Mangiapane: “Before I came to Calgary I knew absolutely nothing about him.”

But for much of the past season, and their qualifying round series, Mangiapane has been the Flames best player.

Selected 166th overall in 2015 – he was the 85th-ranked North American skater as an overage draftee after a 104-point OHL season with the Barrie Colts – Mangiapane has often been dismissed because of his size. (And when you think about it, that’s a crazy criticism – he’s not even that small at 5’10” and 180 pounds!) He had a 106-point season to close out his junior career.

Going pro in 2016-17, Mangiapane was fourth in scoring for Stockton and formed a potent trio with Mark Jankowski and Garnet Hathaway. By the following season both of his linemates were in Calgary, and Mangiapane got a 10 game cup of coffee but generated zero points. Despite playing just 39 games for the Heat in 2017-18 – 17th on the team – he led them in scoring. It was time to try him in the NHL.

He bounced between Stockton and Calgary throughout 2018-19, but he found a niche midway through the season with Hathaway and veteran center Derek Ryan on the fourth line. Hathaway had grit, Ryan had savvy, and Mangiapane had a motor and offensive instincts. From February onward, they were the Flames’ best line and were easily their best dangerous trio in a disappointing playoffs. (Mangiapane had the only game-winning goal for Calgary during their series with Colorado.)

In 2019-20, the Flames were a weird, inconsistent team. Re-signed late in training camp to a deal a shade above league minimum, Mangiapane bounced around the lineup a bit, but ultimately spent most of his time in the team’s top six. He primarily played with shutdown mavens Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund (and secondarily with Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm). Based on the team’s player usage charts, Mangiapane faced tough opposition.

Only Tkachuk and Lindholm faced better opposition. Only Ryan and Jankowski started more of their shifts in the defensive zone. Despite these circumstances, three things were true of Mangiapane’s season:

  • He was the best possession player on the Flames roster – his 53.0% Corsi For beat out both Tkachuk and reigning Norris Trophy winner Mark Giordano.
  • He was second on the team, behind only Lindholm, in five-on-five goal-scoring.
  • He was the team’s leader, one ahead of Lindholm, in five-on-five primary points.

He faced tough opposition on the shutdown line. He consistently had the puck moving in the right direction. He consistently created offense without the benefit of a ton of power play time to prop up his stats.

Moreover, the enticing thing about Mangiapane is this: he didn’t really change how he approached the games, even as he was moved from playing against depth guys to playing against All-Stars. Taking over for Michael Frolik on the 3M Line – a trio with a reputation for being a really good line – he just seemed to keep doing what he did while playing with Hathaway and Ryan.

“I think he fit in there pretty seamlessly,” observed Ward of Mangiapane’s move into the top six. “At no point in time did we ever say to him that he has to be like Michael Frolik. We just want him to be Andrew Mangiapane. When you look at him, he’s got a tremendous love for the game, he’s got a very high compete level, he enjoys being on the ice in big moments. There’s a lot of things that he brings to that line as his own person and his own player that has made that line a good line. We don’t ever want our players to be somebody else, we just want them to be themselves and he’s done a really good job of that.”

So far in the Flames’ Qualifying Round series with the Jets, Mangiapane has continued to be Mangiapane and do Mangiapane things. His four points heading into Game 4 is tied with Sean Monahan for the team lead. He had a power play assist and an empty net goal in Game 1 and followed up with a pair of primary assists in Game 3. He’s playing smart. He’s fore-checking. He’s creating offense. He’s back-checking.

Based on the regular season and post-season thus far, Mangiapane is the best Flame.