Flames gamble picking Jankowski

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: 5:53 AM ET

Even at the time, Mark Jankowski had a good feeling the Calgary Flames were seriously interested in him as a first-round draft choice.

During a nearly hour-long meeting Friday, Jankowski was faced with more than 30 Flames scouts and executives.

“Any time the team brings the whole staff, it means they like you and are considering you,” said the 17-year-old who hails from Hamilton. “I had it in the back of my mind I could be going to Calgary.”

His premonition proved correct.

Later the same day, the Flames selected Jankowski with the 21st pick, a bold move considering most pundits had him ranked as a second-round pick.

“He was the most physically talented player I saw the whole year,” Flames assistant GM John Weisbrod said. “We’re making selections based on who we think is the best player available at that spot, and this is clearly who we felt that best player was.”

Jankowski collected 53 goals and 93 points in 57 games for Stanstead College, a private school in Quebec.

However, he was one of the draft’s true wildcards, not having played against major junior, top European or NCAA opposition.

That said, the Flames make no bones about it. They believe he’s going to be a NHL player with a few years of development.

“(Flames GM) Jay Feaster said in 10 years I can be the best player in this draft, and I want to prove him right,” Jankowski said.

The 6-foot-2 “and three-quarters” teenager was passed over in the OHL draft a few years ago but has grown nearly eight inches in less than two years, thus the decision to play high-school hockey.

He intends to play for the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints next season and then go to Providence College of the NCAA. The NHL is a long-term goal.

“Time will tell,” Weisbrod said of when he expects Jankowski to reach the professional ranks. “Today is the first step in a long journey for this kid. Time will tell.”

The Flames headed into the draft with the 14th pick but traded it to the Buffalo Sabres for the 21st selection and the 42nd pick.

The Sabres selected centre Zemgus Girgensons.

The Flames didn’t have a second-round pick going into this year’s draft, having dealt their own — the 44th selection — to the Sabres a year ago in the Robyn Regehr trade.

Jankowski does have bloodlines.

His great-uncle is Toronto Maple Leafs legend Red Kelly, and his late grandfather Lou Jankowski played for the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL in the 1950s and was a long-time NHL scout who lived in Calgary.

“I really wish he could have been here to see this. I know he’s looking down with a grin,” Jankowski added.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak


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