By Aaron Vickers – NHL Correspondent
CALGARY, AB — As a first round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft who is just starting his professional hockey career, Calgary Flames forward Mark Jankowski understands why he has some doubters.
But he hasn’t let the critics get to him while he gets set to embark on the next stage of his career.
“Some people are going to like you, some people are going to hate you,” said Jankowski, 21, who was the 21st pick. “Even the best people in the world have their doubters. It’s just about my mindset and how I approached every single day. You can’t listen to what those people say. It’s all about me and how I develop and my mindset.”
Jankowski finished his four-year career at Providence College in the spring and signed an entry-level contract with the Flames on Mar. 30.
He played eight games with Stockton of the American Hockey League on an amateur tryout and had two goals and four assists. That earned a positive review from one of the people who pushed for the Flames to draft Jankowski as a 17-year-old from Stanstead College, a Quebec boarding school.
“I’ll tell you this,” said Craig Conroy, now assistant general manager with the Flames who was special assistant to GM Jay Feaster when Jankowski was drafted. “From the two [AHL] games I was watching, he was our best forward on the ice, which says a lot. He created more scoring chances. He was the one guy driving the offence. I know some people would say he didn’t play as many games so he has some juice, but to be able to do it …
“I know it’s a snapshot of a couple games, but it gives me promise that this guy is going to be a good player.”
The timeline to get him to that point has required patience.
“I’ve had to have a pretty good mindset,” Jankowski said. “I know everybody develops differently and I knew when I was drafted I wasn’t going to come in right away and make the team. I knew it was going to be a process and development, so I was just taking it day-by-day when I was in college and tried to work my hardest every single day, whether it was in the gym or how I eat or how I sleep or practicing on the ice.
“It’s every single day, that development.”
The Flames are hoping to see returns on that development when Jankowski attends his first training camp in September. It’s already shown itself physically; Jankowski is listed at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, up from 6-2, 170 pounds when he was drafted.
“We want him to push,” Conroy said. “We want him to push to try to make the NHL team. That should be his goal. It’s our goal for him. If he does that, he’s going to make our team better. But you also don’t want to rush people when they aren’t ready. That said, it’s all about if you come and prove you should earn a spot on the team, well, you’re going to win a spot.”
Jankowski is just as eager.
Developing as a college prospect for four years, plus his sample of the professional life with Stockton, has him eagerly anticipating his attempt to jump to the NHL, and an opportunity to prove others wrong.
“No one really knows how you’re going to take it and handle it,” Jankowski said. “I think I did pretty well coming out of that, coming out of those two weeks. It’s my goal to work as hard as I can and try to make Calgary.”
“I definitely want it. I think that ever since I went to Stockton there, it’s put a little fire in my gut, where maybe I’ll work a little bit harder to make that goal of jumping to the NHL.
“In the back of my mind I want to prove some of these people wrong. Then again, it’s also for me. I can’t really focus on that too much. I can’t focus on the wrong side too much about it, and just focus on me.”