Andrew Mangiapane is off to the best start of his NHL career – a mind-boggling seven goals in his first six games, but to be perfectly honest, I’m not surprised he’s having such great success. Anyone who’s been following the crafty winger’s development closely for the past couple of years knows he’s a prime candidate to have a breakout season. However, I am completely blown away at how he’s pulling this off.
Mangiapane is Among League Leaders in Goals While Playing Bottom Six Minutes
Here’s the thing that makes Mangiapane’s early-season success with the Calgary Flames so impressive and, frankly, so improbable. The fourth-year Flame is piling up these goals while playing on the fourth line with a center who doesn’t usually play center and a depth winger who made the team in 2020-21 as a PTO and spent half of last season as either a healthy scratch or on the taxi squad. Only Milan Lucic and linemates Dillon Dube and Brett Ritchie have seen less even-strength ice time than No. 88, and yet, when it comes to the NHL goal-scoring race, the “Bread Man” only trails Alex Ovechkin and is currently tied with NHL points leader Connor McDavid.
While Mangiapane benefits from special teams minutes on the second power-play unit and on the penalty kill, it must be noted that five of his seven goals have come while playing 5v5. It should also be made very clear that his average of nearly 12 even-strength minutes per game doesn’t even come close to the 5v5 ice time logged by the team’s top line of Elias Lindholm, Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. Speaking of Lindholm, the Flames’ number one center is also enjoying a terrific start to the season, matching Mangiapane’s incredible seven goals in six games.
But don’t forget, the steady Swede has accomplished this impressive feat with a whopping five more minutes of ice time a night and has the added benefit of skating alongside the team’s top wingers. So, the question remains – how is Mangiapane doing this? For starters, the 5-foot-10 winger is creating plays out of nothing, like this incredible effort against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.
It also must be said that Mangiapane is coming off a career year and is building on a solid finish to his 2020-21 season. The speedy winger scored in each of his final four games of the campaign before hopping on a plane to Latvia to join team Canada at the IIHF World Hockey Championships. Because of strict COVID-19 travel protocols, he had to wait on the sidelines for three games before getting the all-clear to suit up.
When he finally hit the ice, Mangiapane picked up right where he left off, completely revived a winless Canadian squad and then carried the team on his back. Not only did they not lose a game in regulation the rest of the way, but the speedy winger also led team Canada with seven goals en route to a gold medal and was named the MVP of the tournament. While Flames fans have been touting Mangiapane’s underrated skillset for years, the rest of the hockey world finally took notice of the undersized forward from Toronto.
Will Mangiapane See More Ice Time Moving Forward?
That is the million-dollar question. If Mangiapane is scoring this many goals while ranked 12th on the team in total ice time, can you imagine what he would do if he had top-six minutes? While it’s tempting to try and move the Flames’ sixth-round pick up the lineup, I don’t think you can mess with the early season success that the Flames have engineered six games into the 2021-22 campaign.
Right now, almost everything seems to be clicking, so why would anyone want to tinker with the forward lines? Besides, we’ve already seen an uptick in the hardworking winger’s minutes on this eastern road trip – from a season-low 12:47 in Detroit to 15:36 in New York. Another way to increase No.88’s impact would be for head coach Darryl Sutter to promote him to the top power-play unit. He’s already scored two out of the Flames’ three PP goals while playing on the second unit and would likely be far more effective than the struggling Sean Monahan.
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Speaking of the head coach, after Mangiapane’s two-goal performance in New York, the man known to be notoriously stingy with his compliments told the media he’d been impressed with his fourth line winger’s early-season heroics. “He’s really good around the net. I think he’s got a great work ethic. He’s got good hands,” said Sutter. “He’s a pretty good package for us.” I’d go even further and suggest that No.88 is the complete package and a great bargain to boot.
Mangiapane is a pending restricted free agent in the final season of a two-year deal paying him only $2.425 million this year. After the incredible start he’s having, I think it’s safe to say the “Bread Man” is about to make a whole lot more dough after he gets a huge raise this offseason.
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 and all podcast outlets.