Flames' Jankowski makes his Mark

The Flames selected Mark Jankowski 21st overall in the NHL draft at the Consol Energy Center in...

The Flames selected Mark Jankowski 21st overall in the NHL draft at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Penn., June 22, 2012. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI Agency)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:01 AM ET

CALGARY - So much about that draft day joy being the only emotion.

On what was supposed to be one of the greatest days of his life, Calgary Flames 2012 first-round draft choice Mark Jankowski heard all those criticisms about the club choosing him in the first round, even the team’s fans who went on Twitter to voice their disappointment.

It’s hard to imagine what that’s like for a teenager to deal with, but the 17-year-old did everything he could not to let it upset him after being chosen 21st overall in the NHL Entry Draft.

And after having a couple of weeks to digest things, he has some extra motivation going forward in his hockey career.

“I try to not listen do it,” Jankowski said after partaking in the first day of the club’s summer development camp at WinSport Canada arenas at Canada Olympic Park. “The people who count, the people who made the pick, have confidence in me.

“I’ve just got to go out there and prove (the critics) wrong, prove I deserve to be in that pick, that I can go out there and be that player.”

Fortunately, Jankowski, who hails from Dundas, Ont., has also received plenty of welcome notes to the organization.

For starters, he’s a very active Twitter participant — whose number of followers has risen to more than 3,400 and counting — so he also relished kind words from strangers in the aftermath of last month’s draft.

Then, came the “welcome to the big leagues” moment when he arrived Sunday: Being recognized.

“I was waiting for my bags at the luggage carousel and someone came up to me and say, ‘Hey, Mark Jankowski, congratulations and good luck.’

I said, ‘Thank you,’ ” Jankowski said. “It was pretty cool.”

“Everyone in Calgary has been great. I’m happy to be here.”

What all those Flames fans want to know, though, is if and when Jankowski will be in Calgary for good.

Jankowski’s immediate plans are to play for the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints next season and then go to Providence College of the NCAA, where he currently has a standing full-ride scholarship waiting.

The 6-foot-2 (“and three-quarters,” he likes to add), 170-lb., centre has to pack some size onto his frame, so a couple of years spent physically maturing will help.

However, don’t be shocked if he opts to turn pro a few years from now. You have to believe that three years from now — which would be following his sophomore year in the college ranks — the Flames would love him to be in the professional ranks if Jankowski is deemed ready.

The key words being ‘deemed ready.’

Jankowski admits he would like that kind of opportunity, if his game develops to that point rapidly enough.

“If I have a chance to leave college early and step in, make an impact in the NHL, I’m ready to do it,” Jankowski said.

However, such dreams are in the long-term future.

For now, he must concentrate on this week’s camp — with a planned excursion to the Stampede slated for Wednesday night’s chuckwagon races — and then ready himself for the next phase in his dream to make the NHL.

At least now, Jankowski, whose Twitter handle is @Janko61, can enjoy social media again.

“It’s all part of the experience,” Jankowski said of the interaction with fans. “I’m enjoying it all.”

ICE CHIPS

G Joni Ortio, the club’s 2009 sixth-round pick is in Calgary but has a knee injury and mainly made the trip from Finland to be checked out by the Flames doctors … F Bill Arnold, a 2010 fourth-round pick, isn’t here due to a back injury … Also noticeably absent is 2008 second-round pick Mitch Wahl, who isn’t here due to management’s decision. Wahl’s future with the organization is certainly up in the air after being dispatched to the ECHL for half of last season, along with a 22-game stint with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, the Montreal Canadiens farm team.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak


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