Those were two words that Mark Jankowski used when assessing his play in the Flames’ opening game loss to the Oilers Friday at the annual Young Stars Classic tournament.
Centring the top line with wingers Andrew Mangiapane and Spencer Foo, he was one of the best players on the ice for the team, scoring a goal and controlling play, notably when the Flames were on the powerplay.
“I think you have to be comfortable and confident, as well,” said Jankowski, following Saturday morning’s skate at the South Okanagan Events Centre. “I definitely felt those two things: confident and comfortable out there. You’re really not going to get anywhere if you don’t have those two things. When you’re comfortable and you’re confident you’re just able to play your game, the game you’ve been playing your whole life and what got you here.”
Last season, Jankowski skated in 64 regular-season tilts for the AHL Stockton Heat, leading the team in scoring with 27 goals and 57 points.
After that impressive campaign, his goal for this season is simple: to make the big club.
And he knows that begins in Penticton.
“Obviously I want to make the Flames and stay there all year and it starts right here,” said Jankowski. “This is the first impression I get to make so it’s a big one. I thought overall it was a pretty good first game. After coming here last year I’m more familiar this year, I get to take on more of a leadership role with the guys on the ice. I just felt pretty comfortable out there and I’m just trying to make plays and do whatever I can to make the team.”
Ryan Huska, his head coach with the Heat, is the man running the bench for the Young Stars and was impressed with Jankowski’s play against the Oilers.
“I thought he had stretches where I thought he was really good,” said Huska. “I thought he made some good plays in the middle of the ice. He can really move the puck well in traffic and I thought we saw a little bit of that tonight.”
The 6-foot-4 centre put on some size in the off-season, now tipping the scales around 208-lb. Along with trying to add some bulk to his frame, he hit the ice weekly with Flames skating guru Dawn Braid to improve his agility and speed.
During one powerplay Friday, his footwork was on display when he calmly pulled the puck to his side and walked around a defenceman before driving to the net where he was unable to snap the puck home.
“It’s definitely huge,” said Jankowski of his hard work. “It’s something I noticed as my summer skates wore on. This was the first chance in a game opportunity and I definitely got to feel that as well. It felt like I gained a step, I was faster and quicker and just using your body in battles and stuff like that. Being able to walk around a D and take it to the net like that play. Little things like that you notice.”
And it should pay big dividends at main camp when he takes to the ice against the Flames veterans.
“This is one step and then when you go to main camp it’s another huge step up to the NHL players – they’re bigger and they’re stronger and they’re faster,” said Jankowski. “That’s where I’ll really be able to show that.”
Count Huska among those rooting for Jankowski to find a permanent spot in the Saddledome dressing room.
“I think for him, I’m hopeful that he comes in here and is the most dominant guy at this camp and he can use that to carry himself forward into Calgary’s camp here in a few short days and hopefully do a really great job of pushing for spot with the big team,” he said.
The Flames are back on the ice Sunday to play the host Canucks at 3 p.m. The game will be livestreamed at calgaryflames.com