When Jay Feaster called out Mark Jankowski's name on Friday night in Pittsburgh, the immediate reaction was loud and varied.
Some were shocked. Some were angry. Some were pleased.
But, all in all, there were a lot of questions about the selection and the trade that sent the Flames original first round pick, 14th overall, to Buffalo for picks 21 and 42.
Here's why I like the move:
Jankowski absolutely dominated his competition this season, playing for Stanstead College in Quebec. He put up 53 goals and 94 points in just 57 games. Yes, the competition level isn't the same as playing major junior but his raw skill and incredible vision got people talking. By the second half of the season, there were NHL scouts at every single game he played.
"I give our guys credit - they look past what the level of competition is and say, ‘What’s the skill level?’" Feaster said. "Our guys are pretty confident that that skill is going to translate into the next level and ultimately make him an NHLer."
The pivot is headed to the USHL next year, suiting up for the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Dubuque has garnered the reputation as an excellent development program and Jankowski will benefit greatly from the tutelage of Fighting Saints general manager and head coach Jim Montgomery.
Taking these factors into consideration, remember Jankowski's birthday is September 13, 1994. If he was born just two days later, he would have been eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft. Where would he have been ranked with NHL Central Scouting next spring? Given his progression this season, which saw him jump over 30 spots to land at 43 at the end of the year, one could easily argue Jankowski could have been a top 10 draft pick.
Another complainant thrown around is that the Flames could have grabbed Jankowski with their second round pick, 42nd overall. John Weisbrod broached that topic on Friday night, stating he knew at least two other teams that would have taken him in the first round.
If you doubt that claim, remember where the Flames were picking in the second round. With the kind of raw talent Jankowski displayed this season, you have to think a team with an early second round pick would have snapped him up. With the 11th pick in the second round, the Flames would have likely been out of luck with that strategy.
There is also argument that there were better players available at 21 but really, I take that notion with a grain of salt. The draft turns a lot of people into armchair GM's and scouts when in reality they haven't seen any of these kids play live. And you need to have seen a prospect play live to truly evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Sitting on your couch and watching the World Juniors or the Memorial Cup doesn't make you a scout.
So, when it comes to evaluation of a player, I think I'm going to trust the opinion of people who have spent countless hours in rinks, watching these prospects game in and game out, more than a person who has seen a game or two on TV.
To sum up that lengthy missive on the Jankowski pick, if you are confident in a guy's abilities and see him being the best player to come out of this draft, why wouldn't you take him?
You also have to factor Patrick Sieloff, the Flames second round pick, into the equation. The shutdown blueliner ranked highly on Calgary's list heading into the draft and there was some discussion about, if Jankowski had been drafted before the Flames got to him at 21, taking Sieloff in the first round.
A lot of scouts think he could be a top four defenceman in the NHL and he is exactly the kind of prospect all teams need. Sieloff is that defensive-minded d-man who, first and foremost, takes care of business in his own end. He's also known for his absolutely ferocious checks. One scout told The Hockey News Sieloff was "probably the best open-ice hitter in the draft."
Playing for the US Development Team for the past two years, Sieloff logged big minutes every night playing alongside Jacob Trouba as the team's top pairing. Last year, he captured gold with Team USA at the IIHF Men's World U18 Championship.
He has been invited to Hockey USA's National Junior Evaluation Camp this summer where he will audition for a spot on Team USA's 2013 World Junior roster. After that, he's off to the OHL to spend the 2012-13 season with the Windsor Spitfires.
A pretty solid resume for an 18 year-old, if you ask me.
At the end of the day, the Flames picked up two individuals that look like they have the potential to be impact players in the NHL. Yes, you're going to have to wait a few years as they need the proper amount of time to develop but if they both reach their ceilings, what a home run for Calgary.
|Jon Gillies at the 2012 NHL Draft (Getty Images)|
Providence College head coach Nate Leaman will be coaching two Flames 2012 draft picks in the future as both first rounder Mark Jankowski and third rounder Jon Gilles are heading there over the course of the next couple of years.
Jankowski is expected to head to Dubuque in the 2012-13 season for developmental purposes before making the jump to Providence while Jon Gillies will be tending the cage in Rode Island this fall.
Leaman is extremely happy that he'll have Gillies on his roster next season.
"Jon is a big, talented goaltender who has played at a very high level for the past two years. He’s extremely athletic for being 6-foot-5."
Jankowski's year in Dubuque should be extremely beneficial in terms of his physical development and Leaman is looking forward to watching him progress.
"First and foremost, Mark is a person of very high character who works extremely hard. I believe he’s a guy who can do it all. He sees the ice well, can make plays and makes other players better.
"At this point he’s 170 pounds and needs to add strength, but the tools are there.”
Six of the seven Flames 2012 NHL Draft picks are on Twitter! Give them a follow:
Mark Jankowski (1st round, 21st overall) - @Janko61
Patrick Sieloff (2nd round, 42nd overall) - @PatSieloff
Brett Kulak (4th round, 105th overall) - @KULAK03
Ryan Culkin (5th round, 124th overall) - @Hulkinator
Coda Gordon (6th round, 165th overall) - @CocaCoda28
Matt DeBlouw (7th round, 186th overall) - @mdeblouw10
He lead the league in wins (31), games played (53) and saves made (1478). His GAA sat at a very respectable 2.77 and he had a .915 save percentage to his name last year. He recorded three shutouts in the 2011-12 campaign.
His sales pitch for Flames fans?
"I like to play against the top two lines, a shutdown defenceman. An open ice hitter. I look for that hit but I don't go out of my way for them.
"I'm not a big offensive guy but sometimes I will contribute ... but that's not really my game. It's more playing against the top line and going after those guys."
The Ann Arbor, MI product is headed to the OHL next season, joining the Windsor Spitfires.
"I'm looking forward to that," he said. "I've been up there a couple times now ... Basically, I don't think I could have went to a better organization in the OHL. The way they do things and put guys in the NHL ... it's awesome."
Sieloff has never been to Calgary but is very much looking forward to his first visit which will be this summer during the Flames annual development camp.
"I've heard all about how it's a beautiful place and it's a crazy rink. I've seen it on TV, all sold out and everything. It should be good."
A moment this young man will never forgot:
On Friday night, the Flames traded their 14th overall pick to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for picks 21 and 42. With the 21st overall pick, Jay Feaster and his crew drafted Mark Jankowski, a pivot out of Stanstead College.
The 17 year-old has seen his stock rise drastically over the last year, something he credits to the fact more scouts were making stops in his neck of the woods. Stanstead College wasn't a place a lot of scouts were making stops at the beginning of the season but his performance there drew quite a crowd as the year went on.
"Playing at Stanstead College, not a lot of people knew where it was right away. So, as soon as I got that exposure, more and more people came out to watch and I kept on impressing."
Jankowski has signed with Providence College but will head to Dubuque in the USHL next year for developmental purposes. Dubuque general manager and head coach Jim Montgomery really likes the skill set Jankowski brings to the table and has compared him to another Flames prospect.
"He said I was kind of like a bigger Johnny Gaudreau," Jankowski noted.
For those who haven't followed Gaudreau's 2011-12 season, the diminutive forward was an offensive powerhouse for Boston College as a true freshman so that kind of compliment should excite Flames fans. Gaudreau also played for the Fighting Saints before heading to Beantown.
Watch CalgaryFlames.com over the next 24 hours for a ton of coverage on the 2012 NHL Draft!
The final days before the NHL Draft, Calgary Flames hockey operations staff and scouts conduct one-on-one interviews with prospects in hopes of getting a better read on players they
It is a continuation of the process started in Toronto during the NHL Draft Combine earlier this month where there Flames scouting team interviewed 58 prospects and reviewed their fitness testing results and medical history.
"We just sort of picked out seven or eight that we think conceivably could be in that wheelhouse of where we're picking," assistant general manager John Weisbrod said. "Guys that you want to dig a little deeper on and, in this case, get Jay some exposure to.
"It's a good chance to take it to the next level with the guys that we found appealing in that whole Toronto process."
General manager Jay Feaster wasn't able to attend the Combine with the rest of his team as he was in the midst of hiring new head coach Bob Hartley. This makes the interview process in Pittsburgh even more important and, given that these prospects are familiar with Calgary's scouting crew, they may feel more comfortable in these final meetings.
"When you meet with a person for the second time, it's a little more familiarity and little more of the guard down but really, in Toronto, they were all over the board," Weisbrod noted. "Some guys are really coached up and prepared. It's tough to get to the real stuff. Some guys are real down to earth and just come in and let it fly.
"Different kids handle it different ways."
These interviews are a great way to solidify where the scouting team has a player ranked on their list.
"Usually when you meet with a kid two or three times, you're going to be able get a pretty good feel for what makes them tick."
Some NHL Draft prospects had the opportunity to take part in batting practice at PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, on Thursday afternoon. Here are a few behind-the-scenes photos from the event!
For more photos, head over to our Facebook page!
New Flames head coach Bob Hartley is in Pittsburgh this week and while it isn't unusual for coaches to be present at the NHL Draft, the bench boss has likely been a bit more involved in the team's final preparations than his counterparts around the League as he familiarizes himself with the organization.
"I met all the amateur scouts, I met the pro scouts, I was part of part of the meetings," he said on Thursday afternoon. "I really like the people. I see that there is a commitment to making sure that the Calgary Flames get the best players possible. It has been very valuable to me, knowing about the organization and about the people in the organization."
Sitting in the Flames scouting meetings has been an eye-opening experience for Hartley and the constant communication between the scouting staff and hockey operations has impressed him.
"That's the key in order to be successful."
Hartley's presence is also beneficial if trade possibilities arise. He'll be able to give his opinion before Flames GM Jay Feaster makes a move. Hartley has been around the game for a long time and his input, along with that of the pro scouts, are a valuable resource for hockey operations.
Expect to see Hartley quite often over the next few days and watch for more interviews with him on CalgaryFlames.com.