It was the type of move generally reserved for veteran snipers intimately familiar with year-end highlight reels.
Spotting the tiniest of gaps between Oliver Kylington and Alex Yelesin, Andrew Mangiapane cut hard between the young duo at the blue line with an eye on pulling off the rare split.
Managing to find daylight – and the puck – at the other side, Mangiapane was promptly pulled down in front of the goal crease, doing well to earn his squad a power play.
This one came in Monday’s intra-squad matchup Monday night, but Flames fans can expect plenty more such boldness from the 24-year-old moving forward.
After all, the third-year winger who started last season on the fourth line and almost finished with his first 20-goal campaign will tell you he’s poised to make another jump every bit as monumental.
“Every time I’m on the ice I feel confident enough now that I can be an elite player in this league,” said the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Toronto native, exuding a belief that defies being an undersized, sixth-round draft pick.
“It was kind of a breakout season for me. I’ve always believed I could be a top-six player in this league and last year I think I proved that.”
He did so despite arriving late to camp following a contract impasse that left him with a bottom-barrel deal with plenty to prove.
Playing alongside Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk the bulk of last year, Mangiapane helped turn the team’s shutdown line into the team’s best trio at both ends.
And with the confidence it gave him – not to mention a two-year contract extension for $4.85 million this summer – he believes he’s capable of continuing an unlikely trajectory along the same lines as his childhood hero, Martin St. Louis.
An undrafted walk-on with Barrie of the OHL where he scored 51 goals his final year, proving people wrong has been his forte.
“I think I have more to show,” said Mangiapane, who scored 17 even-strength goals before the season was shortened by COVID-19.
“This is one of the harder off-seasons I’ve trained. Coming in with confidence and believing in your game. Every year I believe in myself and believe I can be a top player in the league and that’s what I’m working towards. Now I just have to go out there and be consistent with it.”
He’ll likely do so with Backlund on his side, as part of three pairings coach Geoff Ward has kept together throughout camp. The other two are Johnny Gaudreau/Sean Monahan and Tkachuk/Elias Lindholm.
In Monday night’s final intra-squad game Backlund and Mangiapane were teamed up with newbie Josh Leivo, proving dangerous on several occasions, including a breakaway by Mangiapane stopped in spectacular fashion by David Rittich.
As part of his continued growth and importance to the team, Mangiapane was killing penalties alongside Sam Bennett Monday – a new wrinkle for the youngster who posted almost a point a game through parts of three AHL stints along the way.
Special teams work has rarely been part of his duties, which is all about to change as he’ll be a fixture on the second power-play unit where he was prominent Monday.
Mangiapane capped a solid night by being the only one to score while playing three-on-three late in the evening.
• Dillon Dube was the first Flame to be traded this year, switching jerseys several times Monday night just so he could work the wall on Team Iginla’s power-play unit (the team’s second unit) with Mark Giordano, Milan Lucic, Backlund and Mangiapane.
• Welcome to the big leagues, Connor Zary.
Monday’s scrimmage was the lone chance for the three Flames prospects returning from the World Juniors to measure up against the big boys.
Playing on the left side alongside Buddy Robinson and Derek Ryan, Zary got a good shot off in close on Jacob Markstrom before the 19-year-old was deposited on his keister by Michael Stone as the play ended.
• Jakob Pelletier played alongside Brett Ritchie and Glenn Gawdin, exhibiting plenty of jump and speed, but very few touches.
• Rittich played all 60 minutes for the win – his second in two complete scrimmage outings. Markstrom gave way to Louis Domingue midway through the game, allowing two goals.
• Rittich said Monday he has yet to sit down with coaches to discuss how the goaltending workload will be handled this year with Markstrom. The over/under seems to be pegged at somewhere between 35 and 40 starts for Markstrom in a 56-game schedule shoe-horned into 114 days.
• Team McDonald got the 3-2 win – and clinched a trophy at game’s end – thanks to goals from Lindholm, Gaudreau and a beauty shorthanded finish by Noah Hanifin, who executed his stated desire earlier in the week to act on instincts to join the rush more. Mangiapane and Adam Ruzicka scored for Team Iginla.
• Don’t be surprised if Dominik Simon gets the plum, opening night assignment next to Gaudreau and Monahan. Plenty of speed, tenacity and skill there to keep up.
• The veteran centre Ryan was one of close to 100 NHLers who were put on waivers Monday ahead of Tuesday’s 5 p.m. opening roster deadline. As useful as the 34-year-old centre has been in Calgary the last two years, he is unlikely to be snagged as he makes $3.125 million as a fourth-liner. He was joined by Oliver Kylington and Zac Rinaldo. Kylington is more likely to be snapped up as the 23-year-old defenceman makes $787,500 and is a brilliant skater, who still can’t seem to prove to the Flames he’s an everyday NHLer. Those who pass waivers Tuesday morning will be able to move freely from the taxi squad or the minors for 30 days. Teams are expected to shuttle players back and forth with regularity to save cap space and these moves help open that door.
All three played in last night’s scrimmage.
• Other prime Flames taxi squad candidates who passed waivers Monday morning included forwards Robinson and Byron Froese, defenceman Alex Petrovic and goalie Domingue.
• Plenty to be excited about with Emilio Pettersen in both scrimmages, including work Monday alongside Adam Ruzicka and Matthew Phillips, who are all destined to be top players in Stockton once the AHL gets going Feb. 5.
• Interesting trios as the team decided to spend the final four minutes of the game playing three-on-three: Mangiapane/Backlund/Rasmus Andersson vs. Gaudreau/Monahan/Juuso Valimaki.
Second set saw Leivo/Bennett/Giordano vs. Lindholm/Tkachuk/Hanifin.
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