A year ago, right around this time, Stockton Heat and Flames fans alike were anxiously awaiting the arrival of Providence College senior and 2012 first- rounder Mark Jankowski to the pro ranks.
Much was made of the selection of Jankowski at No. 21 overall, but the Flames have been patient with the centreman and now, as he nears the one-year anniversary of his pro debut in Stockton, that patience is seemingly paying off in spades for the club.
Fifty-four games into his first full season as a pro, Jankowski has solidified himself as a legitimate threat across all 200-feet of the ice and has developed into one of the best rookies in the AHL.
He currently leads all AHL rookies in goals (24) and sits third in the league in points among rookies (46).
Jankowski became just the fifth Calgary prospect to light the lamp a minimum of 20 times in his rookie season with their top affiliate back on March 4 - albeit with an empty-netter that sealed a 4-2 victory for the Heat, but still a great accomplishment.
"It's a pretty cool moment for me, but I wouldn't be here talking about it if it weren't for all my teammates," Jankowski admitted.
"I've been fortunate to have great linemates all year and Coach has been confident to put me in all situations.
"It's been a team effort - no one reaches a benchmark like that on their own."
Since then, he has showed no signs of slowing down, earning a trio of goals to go along with three assists in the last six games.
When reflecting on some of the bigger moments from this year, Jankowski couldn't help but go back to the moment he learned he was being recalled to Calgary for the first time and the experience he gained with the Flames.
"When you get that first taste of NHL experience, it just puts a fire in your gut to get back there as soon as possible," Jankowski said with a smile.
"I saw what the NHL game is like and had the whole 'bigger, faster, stronger' saying proven to me.
"It really makes you focus in on getting back up top."
Jankowski isn't the only one in Stockton that noticed a slightly different player when the 22-year-old returned to the AHL after his brief stint with the big club.
"I think the one thing in his game that you can see since his call-up is the consistency," Heat coach Ryan Huska explained. "Through all the stretches our team has been through - the good, the bad and the ugly - Mark has been close to a point per game, even during that stretch where our team was struggling to score.
"We had asked him to raise his level and to be an elite player that we can count on in all situations, and we got that from him.
"I think he's responded to our challenges really well.
"He continues to push himself to try and get to another level."
The 'ugly' that Huska refers to undoubtedly reflects on a stretch of 14 games between January and February that saw the Heat score just 24 goals total and go 1-12-1, toppling down the Pacific Division standings in the process.
However, despite the team's struggles Jankowski remained on pace, tallying seven goals during those 14 games.
All the while he has been reliable in the faceoff circle, a catalyst up front on Stockton's penalty kill and even an energy guy when the situation calls for a scrum or a hit.
Jankowski may have only seen one game of action while in Calgary, but all signs point to many more to come if his time in Stockton continues at this rate.
LAST WEEK'S HEAT
Record: 1-2-0-0; Overall: 27-25-4-1 … F Mark Jankowski is now on a four-game point streak (2 goals, 3 assists) … D Mike Kostka tied a Heat team-record Friday in San Jose when the veteran registered four points (1 goal, 3 assists) in a 7-4 Heat win over the Barracuda … "A game is a game whether it's in Stockton or it's in Austin, it doesn't matter to us, we have to find a way to get points. The two teams we're playing out there are in the same situation so they'll be competitive games." - Coach Ryan Huska on the upcoming Texas road trip that will see the Heat play their next five games in the Lone Star State.