The biggest question mark of the prospects we’ll be covering here at Backhand Shelf is Mark Jankowski, a center with Stanstead College in Quebec who has committed to Providence College for 2013-14. The Dundas, Ont. native hasn’t played any major junior hockey and was not selected in the OHL Entry Draft until his second year of eligibility.
The book on Jankowski is straightforward — he is a big, offensively gifted center who should only get better as time passes. The question marks come from a lack of visibility. The competition he faces with Stanstead College is middling and hasn’t provided the platform adequate to truly get a read on his future. He has also only recently shot up to his 6-foot-2 frame and is currently playing at 170 pounds. He still needs more time to grow into his body and find out how to throw his weight around when it comes along.
Born: September 13, 1994
What people in the know know
A prospect with some NHL bloodlines, Jankowski has grown several inches in the past year-and-a-half, to the point where he sports at least some of the size that NHL GM’s look for in a center prospect. What he lacks is some bulk to go with his currently 6-2 frame as Jankowski weighs just 170 pounds. Nevertheless, the skill and talent appear to be there with Jankowski being a player that can generate offense on his own or in concert with his linemates, with his passing skills being nearly elite level. Jankowski plays a good two-way game and doesn’t take many shifts off. As he gets used to his changing body, it is likely that he’ll only get better, but playing against better competition will also help to improve Jankowski’s game.
“Jankowski is a typical late bloomer as he grew 6 inches this season. His sudden growth spurt has left him rail thin as he is vastly under-developed physically, weighing a slight 170. His strength test results at the Combine were certainly a reflection of that. Nonetheless he is a solid prospect due to his ability to manufacture offence. His vision, puck skills and patience with the puck are his best attributes. More of a finesse player, he lacks a physical dimension to his game. Jankowski skates like a young Jason Spezza as he lacks fluidity but has good levels of speed. His anticpation and hockey sense keep him involved in plays even though he doesn’t have the best start up speed. Jankowski desperately needs to add power and strength to his game. His shot as a result is not very strong nor is the quickness of his release. His sudden spike in development is a healthy sign for NHL clubs. This year he dominated the MPHL and helped his draft stock considerably with a strong end of season showing at the Beanpot Classic playing against better players. Jankowski has the potential to be a top six scoring centre at the NHL level. ”
Projections on Jankowski vary wildly because it’s so difficult to get an accurate read on him. Since he player at Stanstead College, a private school in rural Quebec, competition he faced was nowhere near what his peers in this year’s draft encountered.
But he did show enough to intrigue scouts. “Here’s you wild card of the draft,” said one scout. “He looks like Joe Nieuwendyk did. He’s got it all. It’s just that you haven’t seen him tested.”
Scouts were disappointed Jankowski wasn’t on Canada’s team for the under-18 World Championship, which would’ve helped them better assess him for the draft. Jankowski has committed to Providence College, but might need a season in the USHL to prepare for the college level.
Wherever he plays, he’s a long term projection player when it comes to the NHL. “Could he have played major junior this year? Sure he could have,” said another scout. “Would he have been a star? Probably not.”
When we look back at the 2012 Draft, Jankowski could be the guy we wonder how team X got him so late in the draft. The uncertainty surrounding how he truly stacks up against elite competition could bump his stock up on pure athleticism and raw skill or send him into the late second round and into the third due to skeptcism from pro teams.
The Joe Nieuwendyk comparisons are certainly impressive, but they need to hold up against players above his current level. Despite massive variance in his rankings — ISS just moved him to 55 from 85 — I’d expect Jankowski to go in the early to mid second round, though it’s not out of the realm of possibility for him to get selected late in the first if a team falls in love with his upside.