Andrew Mangiapane’s emergence in the 2019-20 season was a welcome development for the Calgary Flames. Before the NHL suspended play amid coronavirus concerns, he had secured a spot on the team’s second line and was on pace for a 20-goal campaign. He sits with 17 goals and 15 assists for 32 points in 68 games.
Heading into this season, few would have predicted that Mangiapane would step into a top-six role. But he did just that and is enjoying a breakout season in his first full year with the Flames. Is the 23-year-old winger the long-awaited solution to the team’s need for scoring depth?
Calgary Flames: Who is Andrew Mangiapane?
Mangiapane was a sixth-round draft pick (166th overall) by the Flames in the 2015 draft. Since this selection in the late rounds, he’s quickly risen in the organization’s depth chart.
Perseverance has paid off for the 5-foot-10 winger, who had first gone undrafted in 2014. He finished his junior career with back-to-back 100-point seasons for the Barrie Colts of the OHL. After joining the Flames at the 2015 draft, Mangiapane spent a full season with the AHL’s Stockton Heat. He posted a solid 41 points in 66 games as a 20-year-old rookie with the Heat in 2016-17. He then played parts of the following two seasons with the Heat and the Flames.
Mangiapane made his NHL debut on Jan. 31, 2017. He played 10 games for the Flames that season, but his first NHL point didn’t come until the following year. He joined the Flames for over half the 2018-19 season, putting up 8 goals and 5 assists in 44 games in a bottom-six role.
His entry-level contract expired after the 2018-19 season. He then raised eyebrows as a restricted free-agent who lacked a contract as training camp for the 2019-20 season neared. A holdout occurred despite Mangiapane owning just 13 points in 54 career games at the NHL level. His party was aiming for a one-way contract, while the Flames preferred a two-way deal.
Indeed, Mangiapane was absent on the first day of camp. But the holdout concluded just two days in, when he signed a one-year, two-way contract for $715,000. It was necessary for the young forward to get into camp, and he’s proven that he belongs in the NHL this season.
Andrew Mangiapane: The Final Piece for the Flames Top Six?
For the past few seasons, the Flames have lacked one piece for their top-six forward group. They’ve rolled out a unit that’s included Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Backlund, and Matthew Tkachuk for several years now. Elias Lindholm secured a spot last year after coming over in a trade. But that sixth spot had been up in the air – that is, until Mangiapane claimed it in the second half of the 2019-20 season.
Many thought the Flames had landed their top-six solution in James Neal when he signed a hefty five-year contract prior to last season. But that experiment quickly soured, as Neal appeared disinterested and low on effort when not gifted a top-line assignment. Last off-season, he was shipped to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Milan Lucic, who’s now a stable presence for the Flames on their third line. That final spot in the top six remained undetermined.
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With his team’s top six floundering, coach Geoff Ward shook up the lines just before the All-Star break. At that time, Mangiapane joined the team’s de facto first line with Lindholm and Tkachuk – to middling success. But out of the All-Star break, Ward united Mangiapane with Backlund and Tkachuk on the second line. Ever since, this line has led the Flames on a scoring surge. In fact, the team had scored three or more goals in 15 consecutive games before play was suspended on Mar. 12.
The NHL’s Best Line (of Late): Tkachuk, Backlund, Mangiapane
Since joining Backlund and Tkachuk, Mangiapane has excelled, posting 9 goals and 8 assists for 17 points in 20 games. He also revived the team’s “3M Line” – Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund, and Mangiapane – which had been without its former collaborator, Michael Frolik. The new 3M Line was the league’s most dominant in the weeks that led up to Mar. 12.
In the most recent 10 games, the trio has the most goals for (14), shot attempts for (156), and unblocked shot attempts for (126) among NHL line combinations. Incredibly, their 14 goals in the last 10 games are at least two times as many as all but four other lines in the league over that span. (Only the first lines of the Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues, Philadelphia Flyers, and Boston Bruins have more than seven goals in the last 10 games.)
This newfound offensive dominance included Mangiapane’s first career hat trick on Feb. 17 against the Anaheim Ducks. He added an assist for four points as part of the late comeback win.
He’s also made a name for himself as a big-game player. For example, in four 2019-20 match-ups against the Oilers, he’s put up six points. Mangiapane will find himself a few detractors if he can sustain this type of performance in the Battle of Alberta.
Bread: Mangiapane a Flames Fan Favourite
Among Flames fans, you may hear Mangiapane called “Bread,” “the Bread Man,” or “Eat Bread.” Mangiapane confirmed that his surname means “eat bread” in Italian, which gave rise to his nickname. He also received the title “Big Dog Manny” from Lanny McDonald during an impromptu starting line-up announcement by the Flames legend.
In a full 82-game 2019-20 season, Mangiapane would be looking at 20 goals and, likely, 40 points. His emergence, and chemistry with Backlund and Tkachuk, also allowed the Flames to target defensive reinforcement at the 2020 trade deadline. He’s a player who thrives in today’s NHL. He’s shifty, makes smart plays with the puck, and battles relentlessly on the ice. Speed is his greatest asset, but he’s shown flashes of being a capable sniper and playmaker.
Mangiapane is also due for a raise in the offseason. After his camp caved to the team on a sub-$1 million, two-way contract for 2019-20, he’s earned a new one-way, multi-year deal with the Flames. The team will need to lock up their breakout forward and fan favourite ahead of next season. He’s made a very strong case for a permanent top-six assignment moving forward.
Lucas Anderson lives in Calgary, AB, and covers the Calgary Flames for THW. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto, where he completed his Master’s in Cinema Studies. Lucas writes on topics including sports, film, visual culture, and history. He still thinks about the Atlanta Thrashers, his former favourite NHL team.