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After monster WHL season, Phoenix native Kastelic selected by Ottawa in 2019 NHL Draft

 

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Mark Kastelic was first eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft but wasn’t selected.

He also wasn’t picked in the 2018 draft.

All the 20-year-old Phoenix native did was pile up 47 goals and 77 points for the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Calgary Hitmen in 2018-19, all while serving as captain for the club.

The Ottawa Senators took notice and nabbed Kastelic in the fifth round (125th overall) of the 2019 NHL Draft, which was held June 21-22 in Vancouver, B.C.

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“I was at home watching the draft with my parents when my agent (Scott Bartlett from Sports Consulting Group) called with the news,” said Kastelic. “Almost simultaneously, I saw my name show up on the TV and it was a moment I’ll never forget. Shortly after, I received the call from Ottawa’s head scout, Trent Mann, welcoming me to the organization. It was really special and a day I’ll never forget.

2019_NHL_Entry_Draft_logo“I started getting a lot of texts and messages from friends, coaches and teammates. It was amazing to see all of the support I received.”

Passed over in 2017 and 2018, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound forward said he never get discouraged by not getting drafted.

“I guess it started at the end of the 2017-18 season and not making playoffs,” said Kastelic. “I was motivated to train and used the extra time to work on my fitness and conditioning level and skated with a group of local junior, college and pro players from Phoenix. Because I didn’t go to a training camp, I personally got off to a good start (in 2018-19). I started to prove that I could contribute offensively while demonstrating leadership and work ethic. I had a great group of coaches and teammates that helped to contribute to my success. I followed it up with a strong playoff performance and a first-round win over Lethbridge.

“It is definitely disappointing when you don’t get drafted, but I tried not to let it affect me. I used it as more motivation to continue training harder and working on the things I could control. I tried to focus more on helping the Hitmen be more successful. If the team does well, we all look good.”

He joins another Jr. Coyotes graduate and Phoenix native, Todd Burgess, who was selected in the fourth round (103rd overall) by the Senators in 2016. Burgess will be a senior in the fall at NCAA Division I Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

This season with Calgary, Kastelic’s offense exploded. His 47 goals were third-best in the WHL, while his 77 points were a 32-point improvement from 2017-18. According to prospect-stats.com, he was one of just 16 WHL forwards to finish above 1.00 primary points per game, with only 10 secondary assists all year.

“We had a lot of great personalities and leaders in the room so to be named captain was a huge honor,” Kastelic said. “At the same time, I tried to just be myself, lead by example, and grow as a leader. It was a really fun experience and I am thankful for the previous Hitmen captains that I was able to learn from.”

After getting drafted, Kastelic went to Ottawa for the team’s annual development camp.

“Ottawa is a first-class organization and the camp was a really amazing experience,” said Kastelic. “It was awesome to meet the staff, trainers and the players, and start building relationships with all of them. During the camp, I just tried to take it all in, the fitness testing, seminars, skill sessions and scrimmages, while at the same time trying to make a good impression. I’m really looking forward to going back in the fall.

“At the end of camp, I had a positive exit meeting with the development staff where we discussed things to work on the rest of the summer to help improve my game and prepare for the next level.”

Kastelic said his plans for next season include playing for the Senators organization.

“Getting drafted is just the first step,” said Kastelic. “My next goal is to sign with Ottawa and play at the highest level possible as soon as I can. For now, my plan is to go back to Calgary in August until the Sens training camp and do my best to compete for a spot in Belleville (Ottawa’s American Hockey League affiliate).”

Growing up in Arizona, Kastelic started playing house hockey at Polar Ice in Chandler. He then played minor hockey for the Phoenix Polar Bears, Phoenix Firebirds and Jr. Coyotes. From 2013-15, Kastelic played on the strong 14U and 16U Jr. Coyotes squads.

“I had a lot of great coaches during my minor hockey career and took a little something away from each of them,” Kastelic said. “The coach that stands out the most though is my dad (Ed), who coached me up until Bantam. I really feel he helped produce successful teams and taught every player he coached so much. Being a former NHLer, he was very well-respected and knowledgeable and I’m very lucky I was able to have him as my coach.”

Calgary Hitmen at Edmonton Oil Kings

Being immersed in a hockey family made it an easy choice for Kastelic to want to pursue the game.

“My dad, grandpa (Pat Stapleton) and uncle (Mike Stapleton) played hockey so, naturally, my parents (Ed and Susan) signed me up for hockey at a young age, and I just really enjoyed it,” said Kastelic. “I played a lot of different sports as a kid, but hockey was my true passion. I was always a Coyotes fan growing up and loved going to their games when I had the chance.”

Ed Kastelic played 220 NHL games with the Washington Capitals and Hartford Whalers, Pat Stapleton skated in 635 games for the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks, and Mike Stapleton played nearly 700 games with eight NHL teams.

“My family has made so many sacrifices and they have provided me with incredible opportunities throughout my hockey career, which I couldn’t be more thankful for,” Kastelic said. “My parents and sisters (Kristen, Courtney and Kari) are my biggest supporters and role models. I’ve learned so much from all of them – it’s incredible.”

As an American, Kastelic had to decide at an early age if he wanted to wait for an NCAA offer or jump to the Hitmen, the team that picked him in the second round (41st overall) of the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft.

“I’ve always had my sights set on the WHL ever since I first started learning about the league and talking to teams in Bantam,” Kastelic said. “My dad played Major Junior in the OHL, so I had a pretty good feel about what the league had to offer. What really appealed to me about the ‘Dub’ was the heavy game schedule and the grind that prepares you for professional hockey. And once I was drafted by a great organization like Calgary, I knew right away that was where I wanted to play.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Ottawa photo/Ryan Morrison/Ottawa Senators; Calgary photo/Candice Ward/Calgary Hitmen

— Matt Mackinder

(Aug. 19, 2019)