5. Filip Chlapik (Reader Rank: 10, Last Year: 9)
Starting off the final week of 2018’s Top 25 Under 25, we look to the leading scorer of the inaugural Belleville Senators: Filip Chlapik.
Originally drafted 48th overall in 2015, Chalpik’s first few seasons post-draft came with some expectations. After making the transition from the Czech Republic to the QMJHL, he saw his point totals drop in his second year with the Charlottetown Islanders, with questions arising on whether his offensive skills could translate to a professional level. Most of that was overturned in 2016-17, however, as his points-per-game rate of 1.60 was the second highest in the QMJHL, despite being without top teammate Daniel Sprong for an extended period. As a result, he jumped 13 spots on last year’s T25U25 list to #9.
With nothing left to prove in junior, Chlapik made the transition to the pros last season, giving us proof that he can score playing against tougher competition. His stat line of 32 points in 52 games may not seem like a lot, and it isn’t in the context of the entire AHL. Although on a Belleville team that struggled to produce anything but disappointment last season, it was enough for him to grab the team lead.
Like many of former coach Kurt Kleinendorst’s decisions last season, his handling of Chlapik was probably one of the most bizarre. Based on tracking from Peter Levi, we know that Chlapik was mostly deployed in the middle six, while seeing time on the first line less than any other spot. Prospect-Stats.com confirms this as well, as his estimated 5v5 time on ice per game of 12:03 ranks 11th out of B-Sens forwards with a minimum of 20 games played. This, behind players such as Jim O’Brien, Ethan Werek, Jack Rodewald and Max McCormick. If there’s one concern about Chlapik’s statistics, it’s that he didn’t shoot enough. His 1.85 shots on goal per game were the 9th most for B-Sens forwards, bringing his overall shooting percentage to 11.5%.
Looking at Chlapik’s scouting report, a few things stand out. His skating could still use some improvement, as he doesn’t quite have the game-breaking footspeed to match his hands. He thinks the game a lot like playmaker, but also has a shot that if executed right, can be lethal. Here’s what Athletic scout Corey Pronman had to say in his most recent farm system ranking (paywall):
Chlapik was quite impressive as a rookie pro, continuing an upward trend in his development. He’s a highly skilled playmaker. He can control the puck well and create offense through his skill and offensive instincts. Often, I would see him lead a rush, gain the zone and be the catalyst for the Belleville offense. He has some flaws that are keeping him from the NHL though. He’s not a great skater and has trouble turning the corner on pro defenders but he’s better in that area than where he was a few years ago. Defensively he needs to be more refined as well. His point totals don’t jump out at you, but Belleville was an underwhelming offensive team around him.
A full-time NHL spot for Chlapik in 2018-19 is a very real possibility given the circumstances. He received an extensive tryout with the Sens in the latter half of 2017-18, playing 20 games and netting his first NHL goal. On a good night he’d play 12-13 minutes (he even played 17 minutes once against the Panthers), although most games he would only play 5-6 minutes.
As of now, the only two locks to play centre next season are Matt Duchene and Jean-Gabriel Pageau. The bottom six is where things get interesting, with Logan Brown, Colin White, Drake Batherson, Paul Carey, Zack Smith or Chlapik all available as options. Expect Chlapik to get a really long look at training camp, and given ample chance to succeed in the NHL. If not, let’s hope he gets some better appreciation from new B-Sens coach Troy Mann in his second pro season.