Mark Jankowski is the type of player that can make or break a scout's or a scouting director’s career. The ubiquitous ‘late bloomer’, Jankowski is a late 1994 birthdate, barely eligible for the draft this year. Jankowski, a high school prep star that was passed over in his initial year of eligibility in the CHL draft, has seen his stock rise in the past few months. Jankowski has risen in the CSS Rankings from #74 in the fall, to #43 in the spring. Positive reports seem to have him even higher on some draft boards. Former Flames GM Craig Button has him as the 14th ranked prospect in his latest rankings at TSN. A few mock drafts have him slated to go mid-first round in the draft. Others don’t have him in the first round at all.
Now that the Devils have made it official that they are keeping their first round pick and not forfeiting it as part of the Ilya Kovalchuk rejected contract penalty, Jankowski could be in their sights. Is Jankowski the reason the Devils kept their pick? Is this the player the scouting staff had their eyes on that they hope is available when they pick? Do they really think he falls to the latter part of the first round? After the jump I look at how Jankowski got here, what experts are saying about him and share some opinions on that information.
Mark Jankowski Career Statistics
Who is Mark Jankowski?
Jankowski comes from a hockey family. Len Jankowski, his father, played at Cornell. Len, who is listed at 5'9"/165 pounds via HockeyDb.com had 22 points in 44 games during his college career. Mark's grandfather, Lou Jankowski, listed at 6'1"/180 pounds at HockeyDb.com, has 37 points in 130 NHL games. He found more success in the old WHL than in the NHL. There was a reason I mentioned the size of his father and grandfather. A few years ago Mark was only 5'8" when he was first eligible to be drafted in the OHL. Mark was passed over, primarily due to his size.
A year and half later, things changed. Jankowski grew 7 or 8 inches and measured out at the draft combine at 6'2"/170 pounds. Jankowski, a centerman, is already bigger, with seemingly more room to grow, than his father or grandfather were.
Jankowski has played the last two years at Stanstead College, a prep school in Quebec. The quality of opponents he is facing is likely similar to a Minnesota or Northeast High School prospect. In the past two seasons he has scored 84 goals in 122 games and averaged 1.36 points per game. Early in May, he committed to playing collegiate hockey at Providence. I feel like a certain Devils general manager might have ties to Providence. Wonder who that could be....
More than 25 schools expressed an interest in Jankowski, but he selected Providence because he was impressed with coach Nate Leaman, who was coaching at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., when he first contacted Jankowski.
"What he did at Union was amazing," Jankowski said. "He brought that program from nothing and they were in the Frozen Four this year. He went to Providence, and he's doing the same thing there."
The challenge now for Jankowski is deciding where he goes next year. He will begin playing at Providence in 2013-14 which leaves a few different options for him next year. He can either play another year at Stanstead, play in the USHL (he was a first round pick in the USHL draft by the Dubuque Fighting Saints), the BCHL or even the OHL where the Saginaw Spirit own his rights. Should he choose the OHL path he would then be ineligible for NCAA play.
It's likely that the team that drafts him will help guide his decision over next year. Last year we saw numerous prospects that were already in or planning to play in the NCAA move to the CHL, partly because the team that drafted them (think JT Miller of the Rangers) pushed them to the CHL for development reasons.
If the Devils do draft Jankowski I would suspect they would recommend a year in the USHL then Providence..
What Experts Have Said About Mark Jankowski:
"He reminds me of John LeClair," Button said from the Czech Republic, where he is covering the world under-18 championship for TSN. "I talked to people in the OHL and they liked his skill set, but he was 5-8. Since then, he's gone through a growth spurt where he's gained 6 or 7 inches in 18 months, and I think he's still growing."
"I've seen him play six or seven times, and each time he's looked better," Button said. "The competition at the prep school level isn't the same as major junior, but you can see the skating, the thinking. You can see he's unselfish. The most important thing is his confidence on the ice. You can see him take over when the game is in the balance."
From the same post by Pat Hickey, his current coach James Rioux at Stanshead:
"His size and reach are big assets. He's a two-way player who's good in his own zone. He's one of the best distributors of the puck I've seen, so he does make his teammates better. He's very unselfish, but he can also put the puck in the net."
The book on Jankowski is that he's a point-producing machine for little Stanstead College, a Quebec boarding school, thanks to his high-end hockey sense and rapidly developing skill set. A rangy skater with a long, smooth stride and sublime on-ice vision, Jankowski turned heads in March at the Spring Beantown Classic showcase in Marlboro, Mass.
And finally, from the man himself: Mark Jankowski commenting on his game via the profile linked to above by Kirk Luedeke
"I like to play the game more like Evgeni Malkin," he said without a trace of arrogance. "I'm a big forward who likes to generate offense, but not necessarily a physical, power forward type."
As I alluded to in my introduction, a player like this, untested by strong competition and still a year away from college (granted he can go to the OHL) can really make or break your draft. If you pick later in the draft, as the Devils will, then I think you can risk taking a player like Jankowski. If you are in the middle of the pack in the first round...that's a tough call.
Skill wise and from what you hear from experts like Button and Luedeke there is a lot to like about Jankowski and how he likes to play the game. A center who makes others better, has great vision while playing a strong two way game sounds like a top forward waiting to happen. That said, I'd rather it not be the Devils who take the risk of drafting him. There's added pressure for this pick to be successful since the Devils must relinquish a first round pick in the following two drafts to keep their first round pick this year. If Jankowski doesn't pan out, then coupling that with giving up a first round pick in the next two years will put the Devils at a disadvantage as the organization goes forward.
I'm not that comfortable with the Devils utilizing a first round pick on him. I'd rather the Devils focus on a player who is a bit more polished and has spent some time either in a European Elite League or the CHL. Basically I want to take the safe route and not go with a boom-or-bust pick in Jankowski. If the Devils were in a situation where he was available in the mid/late second round and they could leverage a later pick to move up to get him, I would welcome that. That said, with as much press as he has recently received I doubt he falls that far.