Man, that is one heck of a career arc.
It's surreal how I've come so far. It just blows me away."
He says it was three or four weeks ago when the Flames approached his agent, ex-NHLer Claude Lemieux, saying they wanted to get Mangiapane's name on an entry-level deal.
"Claude told me they want to do a contract so let's get it done as soon as we can, before the playoffs. It just happened so quickly after that."
When the deal was struck on Tuesday, the contract was sent to Mangiapane so he could sign it, scan it, and return it to Lemieux. Except there was a problem. Who owns a scanner these days?
Enter Mom and Dad.
The Mangiapanes hopped in their vehicle and made the 40-minute from their hometown of Bolton and met their son at Milestones. After enjoying a nice meal, although not an expensive celebratory one just yet -- "I didn't want to stick my parents with too expensive of a bill," he laughs -- he signed the contract at the restaurant and his parents took it back home with them to scan it and send it on to Lemieux.
It was a special night for the whole family.
"They put in so much time, money, effort. So for them to see me so happy, I think that's what really made the moment for them," says Mangiapane, who also has a couple sisters in his fan club -- one older, one younger.
Caught up in the euphoria, it's easy to forget that for the longest time, it looked like such a moment was never going to happen.
Draft Disappointment - Part 1
The date was April 7, 2012. On that Saturday, 303 young men ages 15 and 16 were selected in the OHL's midget draft. Littered throughout the top 10 were players that would go on to get selected in the first round of the NHL draft:
- Connor McDavid, 1st to Erie (1st to Edmonton in 2015)
- Jared McCann, 4th to Sault Ste. Marie (24th to Vancouver in 2014)
- Josh Ho-Sang, 5th to Windsor (28th to NY Islanders in 2014)
- Robby Fabri, 6th to Guelph (21st to St. Louis in 2014)
- Michael Dal Colle, 7th to Oshawa (5th to NY Islanders in 2014)
- Sam Bennett, 9th to Kingston (4th to Calgary in 2014)
Passed over entirely in the 15-round draft was Mangiapane, who was listed at the time as 5-foot-7 and 140 pounds. It was the first of two humbling slaps in the face for the Italian.
That summer, prior to spending the next season playing midget AAA with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, Mangiapane attended a hockey camp in Wasaga Beach. The camp was run by Barrie assistant coach Todd Miller and he left a favourable impression, apparently.
"After seeing me there, Todd invited me to Barrie's rookie camp the following year. When I did good there, they invited me to main camp. At main camp, I turned heads and the scouts and the coach Dale Hawerchuk were impressed and they signed me," Mangiapane says. "It came right out of the blue. I was shocked by it. Originally, going to Barrie's camp, I just wanted to see how I measured up to all these big names they had and see if I could have a career in hockey."
|Photo courtesy of the Calgary Flames|
"I have to give thanks to Dale and Todd and all the coaching staff and management," he says. "I don't know where I'd be or if I'd even still be playing hockey if they hadn't believed in me and put me under their wing. I'd probably be in school right now, getting my education."
Instead, he's living the dream while getting a real-life hockey education from one of the most skilled small forwards to play the game. Drafted first overall in 1981, Hawerchuk -- listed at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds -- amassed 518 goals and 1,409 points in 1,188 games over 17 seasons.
"When a hall-of-famer believes in you and says hey, you're a good player, we want to sign you, that made me believe in myself that much more," says Mangiapane, who idolized Marty St. Louis growing up.
Draft Disappointment - Part 2
It's called the NHL draft but for many, it's also known as the day of broken dreams.
Mangiapane attended the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia with three Barrie teammates -- Aaron Ekblad, Brendan Lemieux and Kevin Labanc. The result was an oh-so-familiar story.
- Ekblad selected in round 1 (1st) to Florida
- Lemieux selected in round 2 (31st) to Buffalo
- Labanc selected in round 6 (171st) to San Jose
- Mangiapane passed over
He admits it was disappointing.
"I was the only one that didn't go from our team," he says. "We were going out to eat and they were all excited and I was happy for them and everything... but I was a little bit depressed too."
He knew that after just one season of major junior, not getting drafted was a possibility, but it didn't make it any easier.
"However, I knew it wasn't the end of the road for me either and I used it as motivation."
Reflecting back, he points to that weekend at the Wells Fargo Center along with being shunned in the OHL draft as the two events that have driven him to prove people wrong
His determination showed in his sophomore season as Mangiapane racked up 104 points (43 goals, 61 assists). Surely that would catch the attention of scouts, even if he was carrying the baggage of being a re-entry into the NHL draft.
Then again, maybe not.
(Almost) Draft Disappointment - Part 3
At that 2015 draft in Sunrise, Florida, round 3 came and went, round 4 came and went, round 5 came and went. Still nothing.
"When it got into the sixth round, now I was getting nervous," recalls Mangiapane. "I started thinking to myself, oh no, it's going to happen again."
Viewed as a superb talent to be found so late in a draft, Mangiapane's stock has only risen ever since.
Considering the previous year, Calgary used its sixth round pick to acquire journeyman Lane MacDermid from Dallas, who played one NHL game, 25 AHL games and then quit hockey, Calgary has to be ecstatic about how Mangiapane is panning out.
There's been a few diamonds mined out of the sixth round in recent years -- Mark Stone, Cam Atkinson, Tommy Wingels, Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino to name a handful, but finding top end talent that late in the day is rare.
You're in 'found money' territory if a pick that low becomes an impactful NHL player and Calgary's recent track record would corroborate that. Tim Harrison, Coda Gordon, Ryley Grantham and Brett Sutter to name a handful. Joni Ortio was a sixth round pick so I suppose there's still a sliver of hope there. In 2010, the Flames traded their sixth round pick to the Sharks to get Henrik Karlsson. Ugh.
|Photo courtesy of the Calgary Flames|
He certainly delivered on that. His third OHL season was a spectacular one with 51 goals and 106 points, all of that coming in nine fewer games than a year ago. In the league, he was second in goals and sixth in points. Two of the five ahead of him -- Mitch Marner (39-77-116) and Dylan Strome (37-74-111) were top five picks in 2015. Another, Matthew Tkachuk, could be a top-five pick this year.
"Ya, it's been a pretty good year for me," Mangiapane understates. "Playing mostly with Labanc, Julius Nattinen, Justin Scott, Dylan Sadowy. I owe all my success to them. They're great players and they've helped me out a lot."
Doesn't Like to Get Bullied
Mangiapane, who says he is 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, played all three forward positions this season. He spent a stretch of time at centre but most of the year has been spent on the wing, splitting time between the left side and right side. The left-shooter says he likes both and has no preference.
As for style of game, he's not the antagonizer type but he won't shy away either.
By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.
Recent Flames Reading:
- Scoring Sean Monahan: Marksman Far From Dull Around Enemy Goaltenders - All the third-year centre does is score goals and when you stop and take a closer look at what he's accomplished so far, there are some jaw-dropping comparisons. Like wow. (March 21, 2016)
- Snatched: Examining the Impact an Expansion Draft Could Have on the Flames - The NHL GM meetings just took place in Florida. At that time, the framework for an expansion draft was revealed. Today, I look at which two players Calgary could lose. (March 19, 2016)
- Eight From 80 Feet: Eight Random Thoughts Halfway Through the Homestand - Topics include Backlund's scoring prowess, What to make of Ortio, the D structure of the future (and how summer buyouts could work), and what's next and when for Jankowski. (March 13, 2016)
- Sudden Impact: Flames Rookie Garnet Hathaway Makes Impression on NHL All-Star - He's come up from the minors and gotten himself noticed. Drawing penalties, throwing his body around, getting scoring opportunities. Talking Garnet Hathaway. (March 8, 2016)
- One Down, Three to Go: How the Flames Should Use their Four AHL Call-Ups - Garnet Hathaway was used with call-up No. 1. With three more to go, I put on my GM hat and examine who else should be summoned from Stockton. (March 5, 2016)