We all want instant results. You’re drafted. You go to camp. You make the team. You have 60 point season as a rookie. That’s how it goes.....right? Sure, if you’re Johnny Gaudreau or Connor McDavid. But If you’re Sam Bennett, Mark Jankowski or Garnet Hathaway the road to consistency took a different path.
The Flames newest, hottest trio got to where they are through different avenues. Neither of the 3 found success right away and the jury is even still out if this is a “flash in the pan” or a true look at what’s to come. What we do know is that until these 3 were lumped together on Calgary’s 3rd line, none of them were setting the world on fire.
Sam Bennett got to Calgary they way young stars are supposed to: he was drafted high. Very high. Bennett was Calgary’s highest draft pick ever, the #4 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. Mark Jankowski was drafted #21 overall in 2012, which seems like forever ago and he was a lightning rod from the day he was drafted. Garnet Hathaway wasn’t even drafted. He signed with the Abbotsford Heat after a fairly successful career in the NCAA at Brown University. All 3, different paths, but they’ve arrived in the same spot.
I’ll be honest and frank about Bennett: I was 82 games from calling him a bust and Bennett, up until a few weeks ago, had done nothing to deter the talk. He notched an assist in his NHL debut on April 11, 2015 in a 5-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets and it looked like things were going to take off....and they didn’t. Bennett’s first full season was average at best, 77 games with 36 points. Second full season, 81 games, 26 points. For someone drafted with the #4 overall pick, the numbers were trending in the wrong direction.
Mark Jankowski got to Calgary 5 years after being drafted, but in his defence he played 4 years in the NCAA with Providence College, winning a National Championship. Janko was “ok” during that season, collecting 27 points in 37 games (his Senior season was a 40 point campaign). That season was another year where Janko was trending upwards, but his play wasn’t silencing the critics who thought the Flames reached when taking the Ontario product that early in the draft.
Garnet Hathaway is the working man’s hockey player. He wasn’t drafted. He’s had to work hard to make it to the NHL. He’s had to be the muscle and the guy who drops the gloves. He’s never been an elite goal scorer. He might not be the fastest skater on the ice. But he’ll do what’s asked of him and the Flames have kept him around, seeing something in the Ivy League product. Their patience has paid off. Hathaway has had brief stints with the Flames, last season being the high water mark where he played 26 games and collected 5 points and 44 PIM. Not average, not terrible, just not much.
When you look at those brief profiles none of it stands out as “wow.” You wouldn’t think much of lumping those 3 players on the ice and getting results.....but they are. Full disclosure, Sam Bennett had started the slow turn around when he was placed on a line with NHL legend Jaromir Jagr, but once Jankowski was brought up and Garnet Hathaway got the call, they all started to get going. Bennett looks like he’s starting to shake off the bust moniker as he has points in 7 of his last 8 games. Mark Jankowksi has 14 SOG in his last 8 games, with 2 goals and 2 assists. In the 7 games he’s been in Calgary, Garnet Hathaway has 1 goal and 3 assists and more importantly, he’s not in the penalty box. He’s out on the ice contributing like was in Stockton (11 goals) before landing in Calgary.
Is this the dawn of a new day in Calgary for all three? Time will tell and the season is still young, but what we’ve seen so far out of this group is promising. Garnet Hathaway has shown a knack for getting in the tough areas and his hockey smarts have been a nice surprise. Mark Jankowski has shown his rather large reach can be an asset on defence and he’s deceptively nimble for a big guy when bringing the puck up ice. And last, but not least, Sam Bennett is showing some of that talent that drove the Flames to select him #4 in the draft.
The Flames put their trust in these players and now their trust is paying off. Each has contributed something to the Flames game plan this season and they’ve given the Flames struggling bottom 6 an identity and some production. In 7 games Garnet Hathaway has equaled or bested the point totals of Brett Kulak, Michael Stone, Matt Stajan and Curtis Lazar, all who’ve played 3 times as many games as Hathaway. Mark Jankowski has as many points as NHL veterans Kris Versteeg and Troy Brouwer (in less games no less) and Sam Bennett is tied with Mark Giordano and just behind Michael Frolik and Dougie Hamilton on the Flames in points.
Anyone in your bottom 6 isn’t meant to be an All Star, but they have to give you something. The Flames gave these three something and Sam Bennett, Mark Jankowski and Garnet Hathaway have all of a sudden shown Calgary that they were worth the wait. Now the real test begins: continue to show the Flames that they are for real and this isn’t just some one hit wonder that will burn out quickly.