Every week, Senators prospects send an email to management in Ottawa.
These messages are self reports on how they played the past week; what they did right, what they did wrong and what they’re looking to accomplish in the next seven days.
Filip Chlapik has begun his season with the Charlottetown Islanders, recording 17 points in eight games. He sits a single point behind QMJHL scoring leader Tyler Boland, having played one less game.
If you had to guess, you’d think the messages to the big boys in the nation’s capital would be jammed with positivity, right?
“I’m really hard on myself,” said Chlapik in a phone interview with Silver Seven. “So even if I’m playing good, I just want to get better. I’m always trying to find somewhere to improve. I’ve been telling (them) things about my defensive zone (play) that need to get better; about over cheating and stuff. That’s what I’m trying to focus on in games.”
Even while leading the league in goals and off to, by far, the best start of his junior career, the 19-year-old is a long way away from satisfied.
Maybe Chlapik would’ve felt fulfilled with second place in the QMJHL’s scoring race a year ago. Maybe earlier in his junior career he’d be reporting back to Senators management with rave reviews of his play. Maybe he’d be content with his team’s 6-3-1 start.
Not now, though.
“He got himself in good shape for the first time, probably ever,” said Islanders head coach Jim Hulton. “That was the biggest difference from a year ago.”
Chlapik always had the skill and hockey IQ to put up offensively successful campaigns. He was a young player oozing with potential, but as his coach explains, and as Chlapik, himself, would testify to, the dedication wasn’t where it needed to be.
“The biggest wake-up call for him was development camp because he wasn’t in very good shape,” noted Hulton, 47. “When he went there, not only seeing it, but hearing it from the Sens’ brass, he had to make a very serious commitment to conditioning. And he did that, to his credit.”
“When I was younger I never liked a real summer workout,” admitted Chlapik. “I would just play sports and (do) other stuff. This summer, the first half, I don’t know, I was a little bit stupid. I had a bad development camp and they kind of ripped me. I had to change myself and I think I did it.”
Then and there, Chlapik made a decision. He devoted his time to a proper fitness regiment and raised the bar in a big way. During the months between development camp and training camp, he trained three times a day.
“In the morning I did sprints on sand,” Chlapik explained. “After that I worked out with my trainer and after that I had on-ice with a figure skater.
“The second half of my summer was one of the strongest of my life. I really changed myself, and it was great.”
The Prague, Czech Republic, native is also making changes to his playing style.
“I had a really big conversation with Ottawa, my dad and my agent, (about how) I had to be more selfish on the ice,” Chlapik recalled. “My mindset all my life was pass first, so this year I’m just trying to shoot from every position, trying to be a leader on the ice, play hard and hit people.”
Well, if he wasn’t shooting enough before, he sure is now.
In only eight games, Chlapik leads the league with 50 shots. And just to be clear, that’s shots on goal, not shot attempts.
In 52 games last season, he tallied 12 goals. This year, the Senators’ 2015 second round pick already has 10, and at his current pace, he’s likely going to surpass last season’s total in the coming days.
With Islanders star and Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Daniel Sprong out long term, Chlapik has not only proven that he isn’t simply a passenger to Sprong’s success, like critics have suggested in the past, but he’s established himself as the team’s prime option in multiple situations.
“He’s a kingpin on our team,” Hulton noted. “He’s our leading scorer, he’s a front line, power play guy. He’s also shown pretty good penalty killing instincts here, so we’re using him a little bit more there.
“The biggest difference with Filip, this year, is he’s taking pride in being the most competitive player; not just on our team, but in the league. When you combine that compete level with his natural skill level, you get an elite player. He’s really been a leader in all departments for us this year.”