Of all the mistakes of the Jay Feaster era in Calgary, the longest running and most often criticized mistake (second, if the Flames had actually signed Ryan O'Reilly) is Mark Jankowski. The Flames traded down in the 2012 draft, skipping on now-established NHLers Zemgus Girgensons and Cody Ceci to select a project player in the 6'3, 186 lb. Jankowski. Right after him was Olli Maatta, another established player.
It was just as head-scratching then as it is now. Jankowski hasn't lived up to the hype John Weisbrod built around him. He wasn't the Flames' own Pavel Datsyuk, a talented player the team stumbled upon due to pure dumb luck. The impressive high school scoring hasn't carried over to Providence College, where he has only found moderate success. With each passing year, the Jankowski project seems like it will take more than the 10 years initially given, if the Flames don't give up on him by then.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Draft||2014-15 team||Vote total|
||09/13/94||21st overall, 2012
||Providence Friars (NCAA)
After leaving Quebec's Stanstead College, Jankowski found himself playing alongside fellow Flames prospect Jon Gillies for the Providence Friars of the NCAA's power hockey conference, the Hockey East. His freshman year wasn't that bad for a kid making the jump from CEGEP (most NCAA players come from the USHL, and there is definitely a major talent gap between the two levels), scoring about once every other game. Not enough to warrant any honours, but it made the pick a bit easier to handle for Flames fans. At this point in the Flames' rebuild, patience was key.
The 2013-14 season was another leap forward for Janko, coming third in Providence scoring despite being a third liner for the team. His performance in the NCAA tournament, which the Friars bowed out of early, got him a nod for the East Region All-Tournament team. As a sophomore, Jankowski suffered a hip injury, causing him to miss the Flames' development camp.
His third year was a step backwards. He declined in terms of offence, and rode a few hot streaks to up his numbers to respectable totals. However, like the team around him, Jankowski overperformed in the postseason tournament, taking the Friars to their first ever National Championship by upsetting the heavily favoured Jack Eichel and his Boston University Terriers.
With college hockey being perhaps one of the least accessible leagues for live coverage, especially for a small-time school like Providence, few Flames fans had the chance to see Jankowski play. That changed when he was finally able to suit up for the Flames' development camp this year. Jankowski shone, scoring two goals in the team scrimmage, including the game-winner in overtime, and was the overall scoring leader for the festivities.
It ignited excitement and debate about the young centre. Was he really worth the hype, or had we still not seen enough of him yet? You can view our recap here.
Strengths and weaknesses
Jankowski has been described as a very talented player with the puck, often being able to pull off NHL moves against unsuspecting college players. He plays a two-way game, specializing in defence more than offence, and has shown skill inside the faceoff dot, winning over 50% while taking a large number of draws for the Friars. Folks have also praised his adaptability, citing his successful jump from Stanstead to Providence as evidence. He has shown positive growth every year, working on the minor issues of his game to become the best he can be.
The bigger issue is the fact that so little of this comes off in his stats. Even though he is flashy, he tends to shy away when it comes to contact, turning him from skillful Johnny Gaudreau into stone hands Brandon Bollig anytime someone challenges him. Unfortunately for him, the NHL is incredibly physical, even with the league shying away from violence in recent times. His two-way game works nice for his plus/minus stats, but he can't produce shots or goals at any exceptional rate. Jankowski's growth is so slow that whenever he takes a step forward, someone else has already made a leap.
His 2015 training camp appearance was great, but we still must remember that it is one game against players who will most likely only see the NHL at that level (Sam Bennett wasn't even on the ice for that game). His stats spread out over a season haven't been that promising.
Mark Jankowski Year 1 - .53 ppg 1.8 spg Year 2 - .64 ppg 2.2 spg Year 3 - .73 ppg 1.7 spg Year 4 -— Core Depth Player (@CLIB542) July 14, 2015
Not very good.
Ryan Lambert of FlamesNation and Puck Daddy has been tracking Jankowski throughout his college career, and has found things both promising and not promising (Schrodinger's Scouting Services). His report in January 2015 had some very concerning similarities to his report from October 2013. Stagnation is not something you want from a young player. Jankowski in his draft +3 year has failed to fix the flaws that held him back in his draft +1 year.
Future with the Flames
Since Jankowski has been drafted, the Flames drafted two more centres: Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett. Mony is already a first liner at the age of 20, and may be included in the elite category starting next year. We've seen Sam in 12 appearances, and it is easy to say that he's already a second or third line NHL centre at
18 19 years old. Mikael Backlund and Josh Jooris are also really good. They're also established NHL players, and also young.
Let's throw some more names at you: Bill Arnold, Drew Shore, Markus Granlund. All are young centres that the team can use in the next few years in a multitude of roles. These guys have been impressive in the AHL, and are probably one to three years away from regular NHL appearances. That is doom for Jankowski. At age 21, he's expendable to the team, and he hasn't even played at the professional level yet.
Even if he does have a stellar senior season, it has to be something unworldly to impress the Flames, or else he's more valuable away from the team. If they let him go, the team gets a compensatory second round pick for him in next year's draft. With the changes the team has made since 2012, it's time to cut losses and move forward. The mistakes of the previous administration cannot continue to dictate what the Flames do today.
Jankowski is not a bust, he is a draft mistake. He was always projected to be a mid-to-late second rounder, and that's how he's performed. The only ones who thought differently were John Weisbrod (currently tearing apart the Vancouver Canucks) and Craig Button (drafted Brent Krahn, Chuck Kobasew, and Eric Nystrom with lottery picks). The rebuild of this team has centered around centres, and there have been many that have surpassed Jankowski on all levels of the organizational chart.
Expectations for 2015-16
Jankowski will probably have another middle of the road season. It's hard to see him playing at a much higher level than he was for the past three, especially considering his drop in production from sophomore to junior year. He needs to impress if he wants to be a part of the NHL, never mind the Flames.