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MANGIAPANE'S MILESTONE

The forward will play his 100th NHL game this evening in Montreal

by TORIE PETERSON @ToriePeterson / CalgaryFlames.com

MONTREAL - What an evening it will be for Andrew Mangiapane.

Tonight's match-up vs. the Montreal Canadiens will be his 100th in the NHL - a milestone his younger self may not have been able to envision.

Undrafted in the OHL, he was invited to the Barrie Colts' training camp and earned a roster spot as a walk-on ahead of the 2013-14 season. From there, he went on to put together a 51-point season in his first year of draft eligibility but went undrafted that summer.

Determined to hear his named called at the 2015 NHL Draft, he amassed a 43-goal, 104-point season in 2014-15. The Flames were able to land the winger in the sixth round, 166th overall, that summer and since then, he's gone on to put up 104 points in 120 games with the Stockton Heat and 28 points in his first 99 skates in the NHL.

"It's kind of surreal," he said. "From where I came from - being undrafted (in the OHL) and everything. It's special for me for even to get to 100.

"The whole aspect of playing in this league, playing the first 99 games, it's exciting.

"It's a good milestone to hit. Hopefully I have a lot more games to come but it's definitely nice to hit."

The milestone will no doubt be special for Mangiapane's parents, who have helped him clear every hurdle he's faced in his career.

"Nerve-wracking," was how his mother Patricia described the 2015 draft in Florida. "We went in (2014) and he wasn't drafted. (In 2015) we said 'He had a great season - he may be on the smaller side but he put the points up and he proved he can play with the bigger players.'

"He's been overlooked a few times so he's got very strong character, it doesn't seem to faze him. He just gets up and keeps working at it."

Mom has definitely played a big role in his career, starting with his try-out in Barrie.

"She was the one put me in Barrie," Mangiapane told CalgaryFlames.com after he was drafted. "She was arguing with (head coach) Dale Hawerchuk - 'Are you going to play him?'

"She was my agent back then."

There's no need to argue for ice time now.

The 23-year-old has settled in as a top-six player for the Flames this season, skating on the right side of Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm. Since joining the pair, he's been a reliable presence on the flank and has been steady defensively - something his linemates have greatly appreciated.

"It's a great accomplishment," Tkachuk said of Mangiapane's milestone."I'm sure he's very excited and I'm excited for him too, to reach that. That's a huge honour. 

"From what I've seen from him the past few games, maybe since the Christmas break, is that he's elevated his game offensively but he's continuing to be smart away from the puck. He's giving the teams out there no room. He's so hard on pucks. He's done a great job, especially in the last stretch of games.

"I'm sure he's going to get even better."

Assistant coach Ray Edwards joined the Flames organization shortly after Mangiapane was drafted and has been closely tracking his development since 2015. He is able to pinpoint three areas of the winger's game that has allowed him to succeed and thrive at the pro level - areas Mangiapane has put countless hours into developing since entering the organization.

"He was better than a lot of the players but we needed to him to be harder on the puck. Now, as you watch him forecheck and his second-effort game and how hard he is in terms of keeping the puck and getting it back - those things have gone through the roof," Edwards told said. "Give Ryan (Huska) a lot of credit - when he went to the American League, that was a big part of what he had to do there.

"His skating, he's really invested in that. He's put a lot of hard hours into doing that. He's gotten much better on his edges.

"And his overall strength, he's worked real hard on that.

"When you put those three things together, that's a great development succession."

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