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Mangiapane is Making a Strong Case for Canada's Olympic Team

From an overage draft prospect to a legitimate first-line NHLer, Andrew Mangiapane has played some incredible hockey this year, and it's coming at the best possible time for the Flames – and, potentially, Hockey Canada.
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What can't be said about Andrew Mangiapane's game right now?

With 15 goals and 17 points in 19 games, his stat line looks hilariously lopsided. But at this point in the season, only Leon Draisaitl (18) has more goals than Mangiapane, who sits tied with Alex Ovechkin in the second spot. At this rate, he'll have beaten his previous career-high of 18 goals in the next few games.

It's a breakout season from a young forward at just the right time. Mangiapane has cemented himself into the Olympic conversation for Canada with a hot start, a big contribution as to why Calgary has found itself near the top of the Pacific Division all season long.

Could Mangiapane – a player that hasn't hit the 40-point mark in his career – a real threat for Canada's Olympic team?

You bet he is.

A lot of people don't hold the World Championship in high regard (paging Matt Larkin). It's especially easy to downplay the 2021 edition when most of the sport's top players elected to stay home instead of traveling during a pandemic.

But Mangiapane decided otherwise. A longshot to truly be a threat to make Canada's Olympic roster at the time, Mangiapane joined the World Championship squad halfway through the tournament after sitting through COVID-19 isolation. He arrived when it mattered most: Canada was in a must-win situation after an embarrassing 0-3 start, and a rested Mangiapane could have proved critical in keeping the dream alive.

So, how'd it go? Mangiapane had seven goals and 11 points in seven games en route to the tournament MVP title and a gold medal. Not bad for someone who missed the opening three games – and it was very noticeable just how big of an impact he had once he finally hit the ice.

Why was a strong tournament performance important? Hockey Canada definitely noticed, so when Mangiapane confirmed earlier this month that they called him to say he made the shortlist, it shouldn't have come as a surprise. His loyalty to his country in that case – sacrificing downtime during a scary time in our lives to wear the red, white and black uniform – could help him.

And, of course, there's his outstanding play this season.

Mangiapane's goal-scoring numbers have made him extremely dangerous this season. The Flames generally have a high goals-above-replacement in the league this year, and Mangiapane is behind teammate Elias Lindholm (7.6) and Leon Draisaitl (7.0) in the battle for first in the league. Johnny Gaudreau (6.6) has been a big driver of that offensive outburst, with all of them being among the league leaders in wins-above-replacement, too.

And he's doing most of his damage at 5-on-5, too. Mangiapane is the only forward with 10 or more goals at even strength, and his shooting percentage is an absurd 29.41 percent. He's averaging 2.83 goals-per-60 – by far the most among players with at least 10 games played and far above even Ovechkin's 1.64. And he's doing it while under nine shots-per-60, so he's effective, too.

Canada won't lack offensive talent, but can you ignore someone playing as hot as Mangiapane? Just in the bottom six alone, Canada is looking at potentially using Mark Stone, Brayden Point, Mitch Marner, Mathew Barzal, Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, among others. With so many talented centermen to choose from, some might find their way onto the wing.

But sometimes, you need to take a hot hand. And that's Mangiapane, without a doubt. Regardless if he makes Canada's roster or not, he's become a valuable piece of Calgary's offensive hopes as the team looks to remain relevant in the Pacific. The Flames have the talent to be a force, but it's unlikely many expected Mangiapane to be at the top of the goal-scoring charts at this point in the campaign.

Mangiapane was an overager when he was selected in the sixth round in 2015 by the Flames. He had an incredible 104-point campaign, only to follow it up with 106 points in his final year of junior hockey. It took him a while to get to major junior, spending two years in midget before making the transfer over. Mangiapane is small, and that didn't help his case, but he's fearless, is quick and has a knack for the net. Calgary fans are finally seeing his full potential, and why so many people questioned why he fell in the draft in the first place.

So making Team Canada would be a tremendous achievement. Nobody believed in Mangiapane the first time around, but Hockey Canada might not make the same mistake.

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