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Jankowski focused on making full jump to pro hockey

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

His college career came to a close, but the learning didn’t stop for Providence College forward Mark Jankowski.

Not with his latest course.

An introduction to pro hockey.

And the late-semester, off campus, audited class was passed with flying colours.

“I think the main thing for me was every game I was getting more comfortable, more confident,” Jankowski said. “I think that was big. The first game there was a little bit of jitters and a little bit of nerves. Every game just getting more confident and being able to make plays.

“These are the best players that aren’t in the NHL right now. This is a great experience for me to come in here and play games and get to know what pro hockey is all about. I’ll take everything I learned in these eight games and use that for the summer and have a good summer of training and get ready for training camp.”

A senior, Jankowski signed an entry-level contract with the Flames on Mar. 30 that takes effect next season.

But for the balance of the 2015-16 campaign, and after his collegiate career ended in a double-overtime loss against the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs at the NCAA’s Northeast Regional, the 21-year-old was airlifted to join the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League on an amateur try-out.

Try-out successful.

“You talk to your development crew about what kind of player you’re getting,” Heat coach Ryan Huska said. “In Mark’s situation, we had a pretty good idea that he was a responsible guy at both ends of the ice where he had the ability to generate some offence; he wasn’t going to hurt you defensively. That’s what we saw from him.”

Initially, at least.

Jankowski netted two goals and six points in the eight-game course, continually growing his responsibility and Huska’s trust along the way.

High praise from his prof.

“I think the amount we used him down the stretch in games that mattered was maybe something that surprised us a little bit, where he seemed to improve in each game he played,” Huska said. “That’s a good sign for us and hopefully something that will allow him to propel himself through the summer with good workouts in putting on the size and strength and lighting a fire under him to get himself ready for development camp and main camp.

“It wont be easy for him next year. That’s the one thing we’ll try to leave him with. You can’t take your success for granted you had this year. It becomes harder next year. That’s the message we want him to understand.”

That message has long been received.

“He just said ‘don’t be complacent,’” said Jankowski, who won a National title with Providence College last year. “I had a little bit of success here in my short time here, but it’s time to go back and have a really good hard summer of training and don’t be complacent. Just try to keep getting better.”

It’s not a hard one for Jankowski to interpret. He’s never been one to take things for granted.

Even despite being Calgary’s top pick (No. 21) in the 2012 NHL Draft.

Not when it’s taken him four years to make the jump to the pros.

Not when he’s seen some of the stuff said about him along the way.

“Obviously I see what people are saying sometimes,” Jankowski said. “You just can’t really focus on that. I can control what I can control. I can’t control what people are saying about me. I just have to work my hardest every day in the weight room, on the ice, in practice, in games. I definitely want to prove some people wrong.”

An eight-game, minor-league sample won’t do that.

But it’s a start.

One Jankowski is hoping to build on heading into his first season of professional hockey.

Because the lesson from this course will help with the next test.

“You can’t get too focused on if it’s college or if it’s pro,” Jankowski said. “I just tried to play my game the same way I was playing in college and just play to the best of my ability. I think I found a little bit of success.

“Definitely I think I’m going to have to focus on what I can control. If there’s a lot of attention I can’t really focus on that. I have to focus on me and my game and how I’m going to get better.”

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