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Jankowski pressing for roster spot in Calgary

Flames prospect Mark Jankowski is eyeing a roster spot with the Flames this season

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers / CalgaryFlames.com

PENTICTON, BC -- Mark Jankowski plans on being a member of the Calgary Flames when Oct. 12 rolls around.

Craig Conroy isn't going to stop him.

"You want him to have that expectation," Conroy said. "He's going to make the decision for us. We're not going to make the decision. If he plays well enough that he deserves to play in the NHL … (Brett) Kulak started in the NHL last year. If he's that guy and he's playing so well … we want the best players.

"If he comes in and proves he can play right away and he takes a job from somebody … that's what we want."

Conroy, an assistant general manager with the Flames, isn't alone.

Clearly, the kid is going to have similar desires.

"I want to make Calgary," said Jankowski. "That's my mindset going into this camp. I have to take it day-by-day and work my hardest every day and try to do something to stand out every day. I have to improve every day.

"Hopefully management takes notice.

"If I play to the best of my ability I'll have that opportunity."

It's been a long wait for the opportunity.

For both sides.

Jankowski, selected with the No. 21 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, turned pro after a four-year career with Providence College last spring, and will participate in Calgary's selection camp for the first time.

But he isn't about to be awestruck.

He's not just happy to be here.

He's not going to marvel at the cast he's competing against.

Jankowksi is, after all, trying to steal somebody's job.

"You can't really allow yourself to get caught looking. That's how I view it," he said. "If you're thinking it's a 'wow' factor, you're not really performing. You're focused on other things. When you get on the ice its just hockey. It's the game you've been playing your whole life. You're just trying to focus on that.

"It's got to be in your mindset of what you have to do. You can't focus on anyone else or what anyone else is doing. You have to focus on yourself. If you put your best foot forward every day and if you're working your hardest every day you'll have a little bit of success."

He's found some early at the 2016 Young Stars Classic.

Video: Learn more about Flames prospect Mark Jankowski

Though the stat-line doesn't jump out -- one assist, plus-one, and five shots through the first two games -- Jankowski is leaving a mark on his first go-round at rookie camp.

"He's had a good summer. That's easy to see," said Stockton Heat coach Ryan Huska, who guided Jankowski to a two goal, six point effort in eight American Hockey League games in April.

"He looks stronger. He's holding onto pucks lower below the tops of the circles in the offensive zone. Guys are lighter that he's playing against, but he's done a good job of controlling the puck in the offensive zone, which is a great sign for him."

On a broader scale, Conroy sees much of the same.

He was a part of the group that originally selected Jankowski over four years ago.

The returns, to this point, have been satisfying.

"To see how he's transitioned from the first time we had him to now … size, overall … just the way he carries himself … the confidence … he's definitely taken huge steps and his game has gone where we thought it would," Conroy said.

"He's on pace."

Maybe even ahead of schedule.

"Me, personally, I don't think some time in the American league is going to hurt him," Conroy said. "He's going to grow. It's another step up from college. It's the second-best league in the world, I think. There is a big step to there. As he progresses there, then when he comes to the NHL he'll be more comfortable."

A taste, Conroy suggests, is likely.

A lengthy stay, Conroy feels, isn't far off either.

If Jankowski forces the hand.

"At some point you'll see him hopefully get a chance to play some games in the NHL this year," he said.

"I think, really, where we think he will be in another year, year-and-a-half is the NHL. He handles himself. Still skates well. Has great hands for his size. Those centremen are hard to find.

"We think there's going to be huge growth this year, and hopefully next year he's making that push to be in the NHL full-time."

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