MY TAKE: BREAKING DOWN THE FLAMES "OFF THE BOARD" PICK
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.