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‘A special story’: Inside Andrew Mangiapane’s ascent to 100 NHL goals – latest news

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  • November 21, 2023


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As he wrapped a week-long showcase camp, with practices each morning and scrimmages in the afternoons, Todd Miller was convinced that he had found a future difference-maker for the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts.

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Trouble is, the kid was gone.

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A teenaged Andrew Mangiapane and his father, Peter, had already slipped out of the rink and into the summer sunshine in Wasaga Beach, Ont., situated along the shore of Georgian Bay and an unlikely map-dot on any road-to-the-NHL story.

“He was scoring at will the whole week,” recalled Miller, then an assistant coach for the Colts. “He was only 5-foot-6, just a little guy, but he was hounding pucks and he’d score two or three goals in every one of our scrimmages. I was calling around asking, ‘Why has nobody picked this guy up?’ Nobody had him on their radar and I couldn’t believe it. The only downfall was his size, but every time I looked over, he was putting it in the back of the net again.

“So after the showcase camp was over, I’m meeting with players and they’d left. Andrew and his dad were gone. I raced out into the parking lot looking for them.”

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Mangiapane, as an undersized up-and-comer, was accustomed to being overlooked. Thankfully, this wasn’t one of those instances.

When Miller hustled out to the parking lot, the undersized sharpshooter was still loading up. After Monday’s game-tying tally against the Seattle Kraken, that kid he was so keen on has now scored 100 NHL goals.

“I think my dad was probably just like, ‘Ah, let’s get out of here,’” chuckled Mangiapane, who has been reminded of this story a few times over the years. “We were probably just thinking, ‘OK, that was a good skate, now let’s go.’ I guess he was chasing us saying, ‘Hey, you have a meeting! Come back inside!’”

Good thing they did.

That meeting with Miller would eventually lead to an invite to try out for the Colts.

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That would lead to a three-season stint in Barrie, including a 104-point outburst in 2014-15 that would catch the attention of the Flames scouting staff. A 19-year-old Mangiapane, undrafted the previous year, was selected by Calgary as a sixth-round long-shot that summer.

That would ultimately lead to Monday’s milestone moment at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. With 4:07 remaining in regulation and his team desperate for an equalizer, a crease-crashing Mangiapane buried the 100th goal of his big-league career. Soon after, the Flames were celebrating a 4-3 overtime victory.

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“I don’t think many people had me scoring one goal in the NHL,” said Mangiapane, now 27, as he chased down triple digits. “It’s kind of been an up-and-down rollercoaster, my career. You know that. So, to get to 100, that will be cool. And, hopefully, I score a lot more than 100 in the future.”

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From the NHL’s Draft Class of 2015, Mangiapane is the 16th player to pot 100-plus goals.

Of those who beat him to it, a dozen were selected in the first round, a list headlined by the likes of Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Mitch Marner, Mikko Rantanen and Kyle Connor. Fourteen of them were picked inside the top 50.

Mangiapane, meanwhile, heard his name called at No. 166 overall.

“The Flames took a chance on him and took him in the sixth round, which I thought was the biggest steal ever,” said Miller, now an assistant coach in Germany for the Wolfsburg Grizzlys. “I’m thinking, ‘If nobody takes this kid in the third round, they’re nuts.’

“I’d talk to NHL scouts all the time and they’d say, ‘But Todd, he’s small.’ I’d say, ‘Guys, he’s a dog after a bone. You can’t find that. This kid is on everything. He can skate. He can shoot. He’s willing to get in there. He’s hounding pucks. He goes to the dirty areas.’

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“I’d say, ‘What more do you want from this guy?!?’ But he had to prove it.”

He did.

And he still is.

While the Flames don’t necessarily have a standout scorer, Mangiapane is tied for the team lead with five tallies so far this fall. It’s fitting, if you’re familiar with most of his 99 previous snipes, that he wound up sinking his 100th from gimme range.

“I knew the puck was coming to the net,” Mangiapane told Sportsnet in Monday’s post-game interview. “Kind of a greasy one, it hit off me and was lying there. But it was a good play and hopefully there’s many more to come.”

With any late-round gem, you always hear about the scout who was — as the old saying goes — banging on the table in a show of support.

In Mangiapane’s case, that was Terry Doran. Based in Sarnia, Ont., Doran is now in his 10th season on Calgary’s scouting staff and keeps a close eye on the OHL. He wasn’t the least bit surprised to see that Mangiapane was in the blue paint for his milestone marker, recalling that he was “an undersized kid who never feared going to the net and paying a price to score.”

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“One of the things that (Flames director of amateur scouting) Tod Button and the organization is always stressing is keep an open mind and don’t ever write off a player,” Doran said, reminiscing about his work in the lead-up to the 2015 NHL Draft. “Because these kids change and they develop at different stages and that was really Andrew’s story. He forced us. He forced you into taking notice. If he was a first-year draft-eligible player, putting up the points and having that impact he did, he probably would have been drafted a lot higher. But he just kept improving and you just kept noticing him.

“I’d seen him lots but because he had gone through the draft (in 2014) and because of his size, you’re not always putting in reports, right? And then it gets to a point where you think, ‘You know what? I can’t miss this guy. I have to say something on this guy.’ ”

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Mangiapane, who has since sprouted to 5-foot-10 and 184 pounds, always hoped his play would eventually do the talking. This recent assessment from Flames skipper Ryan Huska — “He’s a bit of a bulldog” — would ring true at every level.

Before being invited to Miller’s showcase camp, he was the top point-producer for his U16 AAA team. The following winter, he finished third in the scoring race in the U18 AAA league.

He made the most of that training-camp tryout with the Colts and, across three campaigns in the OHL, averaged 1.34 points per game. After being drafted by the Flames, he exploded for 51 goals in his final junior season.

“What I always dreamed of is scoring goals and playing in the NHL, and I don’t think I ever lost hope of that and sight of that,” Mangiapane said. “But when you start getting older and people start doubting you, then maybe there’s a little doubt in your mind, as well.

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“You’re getting cut from whatever teams that you think you should be on and you start thinking, ‘Jeez, what’s going on?’ Usually, they just said I was too small or not as strong as everybody else, things like that. That was usually the reasoning behind all the cuts or the disappointments. But I always believed in myself that I’d get here one day.”

Now, he has 100 notches at the highest level. That’s the second-most by any sixth-rounder from the past decade.

“That’s a credit to Andrew,” Doran stressed. “He was obviously a player that needed an opportunity. Once he was given the opportunity, he has taken the ball and run with it and proven to everybody that he could play. He’s done it everywhere he has gone.”

And what if he was already gone when Miller burst through the doors that day in Wasaga Beach?

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Who knows, really?

Mangiapane is now an important piece in Calgary. Through the new Mange’s Breadsticks program, he and his fiancée Claudia will make a mark in the community that goes beyond goals and assists.

“To have that one day where I’m running out to a parking lot and have it turn into what it did, he’s a special story,” Miller said. “For him to score 100, it’s unbelievable. But in the back of my mind, I always knew he could do this. I’m really proud of him.”

wgilbertson@postmedia.com

Wes Gilbertson and Danny Austin have been covering the Flames for years and know what makes the team tick. Have questions? They have the answers – or the contacts to track them down. Send your questions to calgaryflames@postmedia.com

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