If it had been up to Andrew Mangiapane, he wouldn’t have heard his name called at the 2015 draft. That’s not to say he had no interest in being selected. Quite the contrary. But Mangiapane’s painstaking experience at the NHL’s annual prospect cattle call the year prior had left its scars.
He had been encouraged to attend in 2014 only to make his way to Philadelphia to sit idly by and watch, one by one, as 210 names were called out, not one of which was his.
It’s not so difficult, then, to understand why Mangiapane had little interest in going through it again. The sour taste left in his mouth – “pretty pissed-off feeling,” as he put it – from the past June had lingered. That’s why it was only at his parents’ urging Mangiapane was in the building at all the day he was selected by the Calgary Flames.
Of course, not even that came without its handwringing moments. Mangiapane had to wait six rounds and an excruciating 166 picks before he was chosen. “I was a little uneasy again when we started getting into the later rounds,” Mangiapane said. “You see guys – bigger, stronger players – that I think that I’m better than getting drafted.
“You’ve played against a lot of players in the OHL, you see them getting drafted, and I’m questioning myself. ‘OK, I get it, maybe I’m a year older, but I see myself as a better player than this guy.’ It’s tough. But when my name was selected, all those thoughts went out the window.”
The thoughts, sure. The feelings, not so much. His experience through those two drafts, not to mention memories of being passed over in the OHL draft as well, left an indelible mark on Mangiapane, both as a person and a player.
Away from the rink, he speaks with a self confidence and assuredness born of necessity; when few believed in his ability to take the next step, he fostered that belief within himself. On the ice, Mangiapane’s every shift is imbued with a dogged determination and the never-say-die spirit of a player who has had to scratch and claw for everything he’s earned. He believes in playing every game as if it’s his last, the results of which speak volumes as Mangiapane has endlessly acquitted himself as a top-tier producer.
After his rookie OHL season with the Barrie Colts, a spot he snagged by out-playing highly touted prospects, Mangiapane exploded with a 43-goal, 104-point season and finished top-10 in scoring during each of his two final junior campaigns.
He was an instant success in the AHL, producing 20 goals and 41 points in 66 games as a rookie. And following some early struggles in the NHL, Mangiapane hit his stride.
Specifically, skating with Derek Ryan and Garnet Hathaway during the 2018-19 season unlocked something in Mangiapane, a freeness to his game at the big-league level he hadn’t found prior. “I started to grow as a player when I was playing with those two because they believed in me as well and gave me confidence,” he said. “Confidence is huge in the NHL. Those two helped me find my groove and let me be the type of player that I am.”
Gone was the pass-first player. In his place stood a savvy shooter who made the most of his opportunities. In fact, few players have literally made their chances count quite like Mangiapane. Entering January, only three players with at least 200 shots since the beginning of 2019-20 had a greater shooting percentage than his 19.4 rate. Add to it some of his individual underlying numbers this season – he was top 15 in per-60-minute scoring chances, high-danger chances and expected goals among players with 300 5-on-5 minutes entering 2022 – and it paints a picture of the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Mangiapane as one of the most deceptively dangerous forwards in the NHL.
The numbers bear it out, too, as he found himself on the periphery of the Rocket Richard Trophy race with the back half of the campaign approaching.
As he cements himself as a fixture of Calgary’s attack and as legitimate a shift-in, shift-out scoring threat as any player in the league, however, Mangiapane asserts there is no secret to his success. His game, as it will with any player dedicated to their craft, has evolved in little ways, with skating among his primary focuses. But at the heart of it all is an inner fire set and stoked by his detractors. “I play with a chip on my shoulder, and every time I go out there, I want to prove people wrong,” said Mangiapane, 25. “Everyone always said ‘You’re too small, you’re never going to make it,’ people passed on me and didn’t believe in me. That’s my story, right? And maybe that does make me the hockey player I am, and maybe I should thank those people. It’s always in the back of my mind that a lot of these people didn’t believe in me. I try to go out there and prove them wrong every time.”