The Calgary Flames have had a rough 2021 campaign, without a doubt. But there have been some bright spots on the team. A few players have stepped up when it seemed like no one else was. The short list includes the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, and Noah Hanifin, to name a few. One player that’s garnering attention but is still underrated however, is Andrew Mangiapane.
Mangiapane’s arrival was no surprise
Mangiapane had a solid half season’s worth of games back in 2018-19, putting up eight goals and five assists over 44 games played, making for his first real extended stay in the NHL. He had flashes of brilliance and those who watched him closely saw the potential he had. Namely, Kent Wilson (@Kent_Wilson) was always someone who picked up on Mangiapane’s early excellence.
If the date was removed from the tweet, how many people would have slotted these stats into Mangiapane’s 2018-19 performance? He was already that good, that early.
The budding winger really solidified himself as an NHL calibre player in the 2019-20, scoring 17 goals and 15 assists over 68 games, all while playing primarily third line minutes. What stood about his game was his tenacity at 5v5 coupled with the fact that his playmaking is unparalleled on the Flames. Looking at 5v5 scoring rates per 60, here’s how his first couple of seasons went (stats from NaturalStatTrick.com).
A couple things to pay attention to here. First, he’s able to find the back of the net with his skillset, posting a 5v5 G/60 rate north of one. Second, he developed into a player who’s often creating scoring chances, consistently setting up his linemates—while his secondary assists remained fairly similar, his primary assist rate nearly doubled.
It’s true, he had a breakout season in 2019-20 with the 17 goals, but the lesser noticed breakout was his playmaking. He was one of Calgary’s best 5v5 players last year and not giving him more ice time was genuinely a detriment to the team’s on-ice product.
It gets even better
There are far too many analogies on Mangiapane’s name to really highlight his prowess. Adding yeast to dough allows it to rise—well, Yeastmode has fully risen. Mangiapane means eat bread—well, he’s definitely feeding his teammates with carb-loaded scoring chances. Rest assured, Darryl Sutter‘s taken notice too.
Only a few players have made true impacts for Calgary on offence and Mangiapane leads the way in that category. To better highlight this, let’s revisit his 5v5 scoring rates for 2020-21.
At this point, something should stand out within Mangiapane’s stat line. His goal scoring looks fairly similar to previous years, clocking in just shy of one, but his assists highlight an unprecedented on-ice performance from the 25-year-old. His primary assist rate has shot up even higher, exactly equaling his goal scoring rate, while his secondary assists rate has legitimately dropped down to zero.
In general, secondary assists don’t hold as much value to offence, as players who are credited with them are likely not as influential on the resulting goals (there are exceptions of course, most notably with tic-tac-toe passing plays or breakout passes springing 2-on-1 breaks). Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) even labels secondary assists as “noise” as they really don’t provide enough value on player evaluations.
Some players have padded stats when looking at total points due to secondary assists. For Mangiapane, he went the exact opposite route. He removed his padding, and had a near perfect conversion of taking his secondary assist rate and pumping it into his primary assists. Like a video game that allows redistribution of character stats for the perfect combination, Mangiapane did it in real life with his even-strength hockey play.
Of course, not a single player would ever avoid state that they don’t want to score secondary assists (and over the course of a season, probability would suggest it’s harder to end up with zero than to end up with at least one). But for the Flames’ season-long struggles on offence, it turns out that Mangiapane has highly responsible for providing the spark: first, give him the puck and he can score; second, if he passes to someone else, they can probably score too.
Among regular skaters on the team, he leads the Flames with goals, primary assists, and total points per sixty minutes at 5v5. Read that again. He flat out leads the team in points per sixty minutes without a single secondary assist. At the current rate, it wouldn’t be surprising if the secondary assist column remains empty for him to close out the season. But even if he does pad his stats in the final few games, the fact that he made it this far while into the year with his current stat line—all while having less than ideal linemates—is simply incredible.
Mangiapane means business
The Flames are heading into the offseason with retooling in mind. There’s a lot to consider this time around, as it may involve trading some long-time core players, attempting to attract new talent, and even navigating the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft for the Seattle Kraken. One thing must be abundantly clear about their strategy: Mangiapane is a key player that they can’t afford to mishandle.
The Flames have spent much of the season muddled in mediocrity. If they are going to get themselves out of their rut, a repeat submission in the suggestion box should be better player deployment. Give Mangiapane the minutes he deserves, and good things will have higher chances of happening for the Flames.
Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images