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NHL debut worth the wait for Jankowski

Over four years after he was drafted by the Flames, Mark Jankowski finally made his NHL debut on Monday in Brooklyn

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers / CalgaryFlames.com

CALGARY, AB -- It was a moment 1,620 days in the making. 
 
And then some. 
 
But it was worth the wait for Calgary Flames prospect Mark Jankowski.
 
"It's a pretty special moment," said Jankowski after making his National Hockey League debut in front of a large contingent of friends and family in Calgary's 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Islanders on Monday.
 
"Obviously I've dreamt of this ever since I can remember … playing in the NHL. It was really cool to be out there. There were definitely a little bit of nerves at the start of the game but I felt as the game went on I got a little more comfortable and confident out there."

Jankowski, who was recalled from Stockton of the American Hockey League last Friday, finished with one hit, one takeaway, and won 63 percent of his draws in 10:18 of action in his first NHL game.  
 
Those 10 minutes took over four years to cultivate. 
 
Jankowski was drafted out of Stanstead College in the first round, 21st overall, of the 2012 NHL Draft -- a pick that took only minutes to be widely debated.
 
Four years of scrutiny and second-guessing followed as Jankowski spent four seasons with the NCAA's Providence Friars before turning pro. 

Video: Jankowski following his NHL debut against the Isles

But the pick, registered by former general manager Jay Feaster, was always deemed to be a long-term project. 
 
That long-term project is now starting to bear fruit. 
 
And Monday was the first example of that from the 22-year-old. 
 
"I thought he looked a little nervous at first and then he settled in and there were a couple real nice subtle plays that he made … pucks coming off the wall and won a big draw against John Tavares there at the end when they threw out the hounds after the icing," Flames coach Glen Gulutzan critiqued. "I thought he did a good job."
 
Jankowski's self-assessment mirrored Gulutzan's. 
 
"I think it was definitely difficult at the start, especially the first few shifts," said Jankowski, who embarked on his pro career after signing an entry-level contract with the Flames last April.
 
"It was a little bit surreal, all the build-up and everything. After that, I feel like I did a pretty good job of putting that all in the back of my mind and just taking it like another game.
 
"It was okay. I definitely don't think I played my best game, but I don't think I played my worst game, either. There are a lot of things I can improve on. It was a good evaluation."
 
Jankowski netted three goals and 12 points in 13 games with Stockton to earn the call-up. 
 
He sat patiently as a scratch for two games before getting the nod to play his first. 
 
And when he did, Jankowski was a quick study. 
 
"Just the level of play … it's the National Hockey League," Jankowski said. "It's the best league in the world. It's definitely a lot faster … a step up for sure from the AHL. 
 
"I think that's the biggest thing."
 
The next-biggest thing will be for Jankowski to net Game No. 2. 
 
That too will be worth the much-shorter wait. 

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