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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports

Andrew Mangiapane represents a huge part of the Flames’ future (2021 year in review)

“Eat bread” should soon be able to command a lot more dough.

Andrew Mangiapane just wrapped up the first season of his two-year, $4.85 million contract. He emerged as one of the best players on the Calgary Flames, contributing 32 points (18 goals, 14 assists) and 14.5 expected goals above replacement (xGAR) in 56 games despite averaging just 12:56 at even strength per game.

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He was consistently a joy to watch. On the 2020–21 Flames, players like that were often few and far between. But what, exactly, has made Mangiapane such a good player?

The past

Mangiapane was never drafted into the OHL. He made his debut with the Barrie Colts in the 2013–14 season and immediately proved why every other team was foolish for passing on him, scoring 51 points (24 goals, 27 assists) in 68 games and being named to the OHL’s first all-rookie team.

Having turned 18 at the end of that season, Mangiapane was eligible to be selected in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Sure, he was a little on the small side (5’10”, 183 pounds). Even still, with age-18 OHL numbers like that, Mangiapane had to be a shoo-in to go to somebody as a mid-round pick… right?

Wrong.

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Every single team passed on Mangiapane (multiple times!) and he returned to Barrie in 2014–15 as an undrafted overager. He proceeded to demolish the entire league with 104 points in 68 games and was selected by the Flames in the sixth round of the 2015 draft.

After scoring 51 goals in 59 games with Barrie in 2015–16, Mangiapane started his professional career with the Stockton Heat in 2016–17 and quickly emerged as a key player. He scored 41 points (20 goals, 21 assists) in 66 games as a rookie and followed it up with 21 goals and 46 points in 39 games as a sophomore.

Mangiapane earned his first 10 NHL games with Calgary during the 2017–18 season but failed to show much of note, scoring zero points and contributing negative–0.3 xGAR. He returned to the Flames halfway through the following season and, after an early adjustment period, gelled on the club’s fourth line with Derek Ryan and Garnet Hathaway.

He finished that season with eight goals in 44 games (plus one beautiful tally in five playoff contests against Colorado).

Mangiapane played his first full NHL season in 2019–20, emerging as an excellent two-way winger in the vein of the aging (and ultimately traded) Michael Frolik. He played 68 of the Flames’ 70 games, scoring 17 goals and 32 points along the way while chipping in a total of 12.5 xGAR.

The present

In 2020–21, Mangiapane counted for $2.425 million against the Flames’ cap. He’s set to command the same AAV in 2021–22.

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Let that sink in for a minute. In the meantime, watch this goal.

Mangiapane provides the Flames with tremendous value and likely deserves to be paid as much as three times what he’s currently taking home. He took another step forward in 2020–21, scoring 18 goals and 32 points in 56 games while ranking third on the Flames (behind only Johnny Gaudreau and Chris Tanev) with 14.5 xGAR.

Yes, he’s already 25. Sure, he’s another small left-handed winger on a team full of them. So what? Mangiapane does almost everything well and consistently makes his presence felt on a shift-to-shift basis.

Last season, Evolving-Hockey valued Mangiapane’s offensive play at even strength as being worth 10.7 xGAR (first on CGY). His defensive play in all situations came in at 2.5 xGAR (5th on CGY). Mangiapane contributed all this while averaging 16:40 per game, only the sixth-most among Flames forwards.

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Mangiapane is currently in Latvia representing Canada on the international stage for the first time in his career. His delayed arrival in Riga helped spark a resurgence for Canada, which has not lost in regulation in the four games since #88 first appeared in the lineup and managed to power their way into the quarter finals after a rough start.

In those four contests, Mangiapane has an eye-popping eight points (four goals, four assists) and is earning rave reviews for his play.

The future

Mangiapane will be eligible to sign a new contract with the Flames on July 28. A new deal would take effect in the 2022–23 season.

Evolving-Hockey projects Mangiapane’s next RFA contract as carrying an AAV of $4.493 million for four years. Such a deal would likely be a shoo-in for Flames general manager Brad Treliving.

Mangiapane has already become a quality top-six winger with the potential to successfully occupy a top-line role. With Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk both also requiring new contracts starting in the 2022–23 season, signing Mangiapane to an extension a year ahead of schedule should be a key priority for Treliving.

If the Flames can find a way to sign Mangiapane for at least four more years at less than five million dollars per season, they shouldn’t hesitate to make it a reality. Mangiapane deserves to be considered in the same breath as Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, and even Gaudreau when talking about the most important Flames forwards.

It’s time to start giving Mangiapane more responsibilities and deployments. He’s that good.