A little over a month ago, the Calgary Flames finished up a disappointing regular season that many of us would like to forget. However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. There is one particular forward we should all be remembering quite fondly right about now, and his name is Andrew Mangiapane. No. 88 signed a two-year, $4.85 million contact before the 2020-21 campaign and so far he’s earned every penny of it, finishing second in team goal scoring (18) and fourth in overall points (32).
After a Slow Start, Mangiapane Became the Flames’ Best 5v5 Forward
Expectations were sky-high for the Toronto-native after having a breakout season in 2019-20, scoring 17 goals and 15 assists in a pandemic-shortened, 70-game campaign. However, with that brand-new contact under his belt, Mangiapane had trouble getting on the scoresheet early this season, only posting a single assist in the entire month of January. Despite the lack of early success, the 5-foot-10 winger was constantly near the top of the advanced stats, so it seemed it was only a matter of time before the man dubbed “Eat Bread” would start earning his dough.
February saw the left winger score 11 points in 15 games and it became very evident that you can plug No. 88 into any situation and he’ll give you a solid 200-foot game. While Mangiapane played primarily with the extremely steady Mikael Backlund and a rejuvenated Milan Lucic, the Flames’ coaching staff had no qualms about shifting the versatile forward up and down the line-up when needed. In fact, after the dust settled on the regular season, he hooked up on scoring plays with 10 different forwards and seven different defenceman — more than any other Flames player.
Mangiapane Drives the Play Whenever He’s on the Ice
Mangiapane has proven his worth at even strength all season, scoring the same number of 5v5 markers as Leon Draisaitl, Mark Stone, Brayden Point and Alex Ovechkin. He’s done this despite averaging just 12:56 of even-strength ice time per game. If you consider he only counted for $2.425 million against the cap this past season, his current contract offers incredible value. If Flames’ management wanted to get ahead of the game, they should really consider locking up the reliable two-way forward for multiple years with a contract extension this summer — complete with a hefty raise.
Mangiapane racked up his 32 points in spurts over the course of the 56-game season, but he saved some of his best hockey for the final month when the Flames made a gutsy, but ultimately unsuccessful, playoff push. In the final 11 games of the campaign, the sixth-round pick piled up nine points. This production did not go unnoticed by his bench boss while Calgary was going head-to-head with the Montreal Canadiens in late April. (from ‘Gilbertson: Mangiapane emerges as emotional tone-setter for Flames,’ Calgary Sun, 05/25/2021)
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“He gives our team a lot of grit and determination,” said head coach Darryl Sutter, a guy known to be pretty stingy when doling out kudos. “I think he’s a real leader in that department for this team, and that’s a pretty good compliment for a kid that is 24 years old.” While Mangiapane is actually 25 years old, it’s obvious Sutter is thinking about rewarding the team’s best 5v5 forward with more responsibility when the 2021-22 season starts in the fall.
MVP Performance With Team Canada Puts Exclamation Mark on Career Year
While Mangiapane’s excellent performance at the IIHF World Championship wasn’t technically part of his 2020-21 campaign with the Flames, it most certainly will have a big impact with how he will be utilized moving forward. After missing the tournament’s first three matches while in quarantine, the speedy forward played on the top line for Canada, anchored the first power-play unit, scored seven goals and added four helpers in only seven games. After carrying the team to an improbable gold medal, Mangiapane was deservedly awarded the tournament’s MVP.
I feel this is undeniable proof that the 180-pound spark plug is more than ready for added responsibility and extra ice time when the Flames hit the ice next season. Remember, this is a player who has been proving the naysayers wrong his entire career. Selected 166th overall in 2015, he was the 85th-ranked North American skater as an overage draftee after a 104-point Ontario Hockey League season with the Barrie Colts.
Mangiapane has been dismissed at every level he’s played at because of his relatively small stature, but to his credit, “Eat Bread” has gone from a sixth-round steal to a top-six stalwart in just three NHL campaigns, and I’m pretty sure the best is yet to come. In my mid-season report card, I gave Mangiapane an A, which was the top mark of any forward on the team. I see no reason to change that assessment after an excellent 2020-21 campaign.
FINAL GRADE: A
Greg Tysowski is a former broadcast journalist who chose the exciting life of a stay-at-home dad for over a decade. He’s now a published author, parenting blogger and aspiring sports writer covering the Calgary Flames for The Hockey Writers. Greg is also a regular contributor to the weekly roundtable discussion “Flames Faceoff”, now streaming on YouTube, Facebook and all podcast outlets.