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Jankowski excited for next chapter with Flames

by Jason Johnson / Calgary Flames

It’s a great feeling. It’s a dream come true, signing my first professional contract. I couldn’t be happier it’s with the Flames. I’m just so excited and I can’t wait to get going.Mark Jankowski

CALGARY, AB -- It's a dream come true for Calgary Flames prospect Mark Jankowski.

The 21-year-old inked an entry-level deal with the Flames on Wednesday morning that will kick into gear next season.

“It’s a great feeling. It’s a dream come true, signing my first professional contract," Jankowski told CalgaryFlames.com. "I couldn’t be happier it’s with the Flames. I’m just so excited and I can’t wait to get going.”

It was special for Jankowski when he signed his first NHL contract, even more so when he shared the news with his family.

"They were so excited, just as excited as I was," he said. "My dad especially is someone I have to give everything to. He put me on skates at a young age. He was my first coach and he has taught me everything I need to know. He was very proud and he was very excited."

Jankowski, Calgary’s top pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, led the Friars in goals (15), assists (25), points (40), and plus/minus (+24) in his senior year but had his college career at Providence come to a close on Friday after suffering a heartbreaking 2-1 double-overtime loss to the University of Minnesota Duluth in the first game of the NCAA national tournament.

The Flames had until Aug. 15 to put pen to paper or they would risk the possibility of Jankowski testing the free agent waters.

That wasn't really a consideration.

"It always seemed that Calgary was the right fit for me," Jankowski said. "When I told my advisor that, we just focused on that and focused on trying to get it done with Calgary. We stayed in touch. Probably every day we talked and he told me to just hang tight and he’s going to get something going.

"He called me last night and said, ‘I think we have a deal.’ I was really excited and we just had to get the paperwork done."

With the contract starting next season, Jankowksi is headed to Stockton of the American Hockey League on Wednesday on an amateur try-out agreement to dip his toes into professional hockey and gain some additional experience heading into the offseason.

Stockton likely won't qualify for the playoffs but does have nine games remaining. Jankowski won't suit up for Wednesday’s skate against the San Diego Gulls, but could play in the final eight games of the season.

It will be a good gauge for the centre and another step in the development for Jankowski, who the Flames claimed was a five-year project at minimum when drafted in 2012.

It's been four years now.

"I’m just going to Stockton right now and getting some American League experience," Jankowski said. "It’s my first taste of professional hockey. I’m just going to try and be a sponge, take everything in for these last few weeks here, these last few games and just take everything I learn into the summer with me and getting ready for training camp.

"My goal is to make the Flames so I’m going to be working as hard as I can. I’m not exactly sure where I’m going to be at this summer so I need to figure some things out. I’m going to go to Stockton now and I’m going to take everything in and learn from these pros and take everything I can into this summer and get ready."

The current situation with Calgary could also work out perfectly for both Jankowski and the Flames. A young team in the rebuilding stages gives Jankowski a good opportunity to carve out a long career if everything goes well.

"I’ve watched a lot of their games this year whenever I can," Jankowski said. "I think the organization is in a great spot right now. There are a lot of young guys that are contributing well and playing a lot of big minutes so I think the future is bright in Calgary."

When the Flames plucked Jankowski 21st overall in 2012, the lanky forward was fresh out of high school and 6-foot-3, 178 pounds. One inch taller and 22-pounds heavier four years later, Jankowski is rounding out into the type of pivot NHL GMs covet.

"I think the size has definitely helped,” Jankowski said. “The one thing I had to do and the biggest thing I had to do was fill out and get bigger and stronger and I feel like I’ve done that over my four years since I’ve been drafted. It really helps me win battles in the corners, protect pucks, take pucks to the net and get to the dirty areas and win those battles and everything.

"It’s definitely made me a bigger, stronger and more confident player on the ice."

His growth has reflected that.

Along with his stature, Jankowski's point totals increased in each of his four years, and he became a leader in the dressing room with the Friars. And as disappointing as the early exit was this year for Jankowski and Providence, capturing a national title last year was the highlight of his college career and something he will never forget.

"My college career at Providence was unbelievable," he said. "I had a great time. All four years. It’s been amazing with the group of guys we have there and the coaching staff and everything I learned with my development over the four years. Obviously the team success and the national championship topped it all off.

"It was an amazing time and an amazing feeling. Something I’ll never forget and I’ll cherish my time at Providence forever."

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