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The winger's first pro season was an eye-opener on and off the ice

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

In the life of any first-year pro, there's no end to the growing-up.

"The hockey part,'' reckons Andrew Mangiapane, "actually went pretty well, I thought.

"The hardest thing was living on my own. I mean, I was living on my own in Barrie but I had my billets and even then I was only 40 minutes away from my hometown, so I always saw my parents.

"When I moved to Stockton, everything changed.

"I had to cook for myself. And …" Eye-roll. "… Razzy.

"I had to clean for myself. And …" Eye-roll. "… Razzy.

"Not only was I taking care of myself, I was taking care of my roommate."

Former Barrie Colts' teammate Rasmus (Razzy) Andersson might take slight offence to his pal's one-sided, in-jest breakdown of domestic duties in their Stockton digs, but on anyone's list of the Flames' prospects most-likely-to make The Show, the Swedish-born defenceman and the slick left winger from Bolton, Ont., can be found together near the top of the page.

Back-to-back 104-point seasons with the OHL Colts gave everyone a tantalizing glimpse of Mangiapane's offensive upside. So right off the hop last September, to maximize his strengths and put the rookie at his ease, Heat coach Ryan Huska partnered the sixth-round, 166th overall draft pick alongside Linden Vey and Matt Frattin.

Mangiapane responded by posting a commendable 41-point freshman turn.

"He did go through ups and downs over the course of the year,'' concedes Huska, "but if you look at the season as one big picture, I thought he made significant improvement.

"At the end of the year and during our playoff series against San Jose, he was in my mind one of our better players. Strong on pucks, earned the powerplay time he was given.

"He continually showed us he can do the job.

"I know I believe in him, after one year.

"Whether his chance (in Calgary) comes this year, next year or whenever, the way he came around with us, I believe he'll have the mindset that he can to do it at the next level, as well. With him, what drives him is he's always been told: 'No, sorry. You're too small. You can't do this.'

"Minor hockey. Junior. Probably with us last year. People will probably say the same thing about the NHL. But being around him for a year, I know he has the skill level and the willpower to make that next jump.

"I'm really interested to see how he progresses."

Video: Get to know Flames prospect Andrew Mangiapane

In adapting to the professional level, Mangiapane experienced the usual growing pains.

"Everyone's bigger, stronger, faster,'' he recites. "The stuff you hear all the time, sounds a bit cliche I know … still, it's true. But I've been playing against bigger, stronger guys my whole life, right?

"What really takes getting to is the speed, and the players at that level being smarter, knowing where to puts pucks, things like that.

His buddy Andersson got the call and played his first NHL game last season.

Mangiapane hopes his turn is up next.

"You always want to get a shot. That's what everybody's looking for, to play in the NHL. It's on my radar, for sure. And of course you'd like it to be sooner than later.

"But the game's all about opportunity. When one comes your way, you've got to take it all in and make the most of it. I don't think you can get impatient, start worrying or wondering 'Why not me?'

"If you believe in yourself, you know a shot's coming. When it does, be ready."

Until then, whether that opportunity arises in September, after Christmas or whenever, he'll continue to hone his domestic and professional skills in Stockton.

"My go-to is chicken parm. My mom's Scottish and my dad's Italian, so I'd go over to my nonna's place and get a nice plate of pasta. So that's on the menu now, too."

And if, by chance, Mangiapane receives a Calgary summons while Andersson's still in Stockton?

"Honestly,'' he teases, "I don't know.

"Hey, he'd be fine. He's not a bad cook himself. And I'll give him a few of my recipes. He should be okay.

"Actually, I kid him but we get along great.

"We're good friends."

Back in Barrie.

Now in Stockton.

And in future, with a bit of luck, here in Calgary, too.

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