Connect with us

Nashville Predators

Mark Jankowski Thriving After Taking ‘Hard Road’ Back To NHL



Photo of Mark Jankowski by David Russell/Nashville Hockey Now

Mark Jankowski knows the drill by heart now.

When the Nashville Predators summoned the veteran center from the American Hockey League earlier this week, he shoved a few essentials into a bag, grabbed his game-day suits and headed for the door.

“You get the call, and then you’ve got to pack and basically get right to the airport because they want to get you here as soon as possible,” he said. “You always have that feeling when you’re rushing to pack that you’re missing something, but so far, I think I did a good job.”

Jankowski is especially grateful for his latest NHL opportunity.

The former first-round pick was recalled Monday from the Milwaukee Admirals along with linemate Egor Afanasyev. Jankowski led the red-hot Admirals and was third in the AHL in assists (32) and points (47) through 40 games.

The two have fed off one another as the main drivers of Milwaukee’s offense.


Jankowski has been a frequent passenger on flights between Milwaukee and Nashville, having been sent down or waived seven times since signing with the Predators in July 2022.

“You want to earn your way up here, and then you want to earn your right to stay here,” he said. “… Every time I go down (to the minors), you’re doing everything you can, first of all, to help the team win, and then also earn your way back (to the NHL).”

Jankowski tallied 36 goals across three full seasons with the Calgary Flames from 2017-20 but never quite lived up to the billing as the No. 21 overall pick from the 2012 draft. He later spent time with Pittsburgh and Buffalo before landing in Nashville.

Predators coach Andrew Brunette can sympathize with Jankowski’s winding journey. He played parts of five seasons in the AHL before earning a full-time NHL role on Nashville’s inaugural roster in 1998-99.

“It’s a hard road,” Brunette said. “Being in those shoes before, you want to find a way to stick. It’s hard to stick. It’s hard in limited roles. You’re going to have to push your way through to really earn it.”

Jankowski did that this season in Milwaukee by primarily centering Afanasyev and Zachary L’Heureux on a productive line. The 29-year-old earned AHL Player of the Month after posting seven goals and 11 assists with a plus-15 rating in January.

It was far more enjoyable than his first AHL campaign in 2016-17, he said.

“My rookie year I played a full year in Stockton (California),” Jankowski said. “That’ll humble you when you’re in Stockton for a year. It’s not a great place to be. It makes you really want to get up (to the NHL) and out of there.”

It’s too early to judge Jankowski’s latest stint with Nashville, according to Brunette. He’s averaged 11:56 of ice time with four total shots and a minus-3 rating in back-to-back home losses to New Jersey and Dallas.

“He was having a great season in the (AHL), and unfortunately for him and Egor, it’s a tough time to come in when the team’s playing as poorly as we have the last few games,” Brunette said. “It’s kind of unfair to (Jankowski) to totally evaluate him right now, but we know what we have. He’s a very reliable two-way player.”

Jankowski is determined to show why he deserves to stick around as the Predators (27-25-2) gear up for a crucial five-game road swing.

“It’s great to be back here,” he said. “For myself and Egor coming up, we were playing good hockey – just as everyone was (in Milwaukee)… I think it’s good for us to be rewarded. Now we have to come here and prove that we belong.”

Follow Russell Vannozzi on X/Twitter @RussellV_MSP.

Keep up with Nashville Hockey Now on X/Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

Get Nashville HN in Your Inbox!

Enter your email address and get our stories send straight to your inbox.