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Ottawa Senators Top 25 Under 25, #14: Filip Chlapik

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The 2015 second round pick is at a cross-roads as he looks to lock down a permanent NHL job.

NHL: FEB 06 Avalanche at Senators Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

14. Filip Chlapik (Reader Rank: 19, Last Year: 18)

It seems hard to believe now, but there was a time when Filip Chlapik was regarded as one of the team’s best forward prospects. Long-time readers of the blog may recall that he was rated as high as #5 (!) on our Top 25 Under 25 back in 2018. The fall of 2018 was a dark era for Sens fans: the team was coming off a catastrophic season and seemed to be careening towards trading their franchise player, Erik Karlsson.

Meanwhile, Matt Duchene and Mark Stone’s statuses were murky at best. To top it off, the farm system wasn’t exactly resplendent at the time — besides the newly drafted Brady Tkachuk, there just didn’t seem to be that much high-end talent in the pipeline. Against that backdrop, Chlapik had just completed a successful first pro season in which he was probably the B-Sens’ best player and had managed to find his way into 20 games with Ottawa. In a better-stocked system, Chlapik would probably never have ranked as a top prospect but he was a second round pick with a good amount of skill and a lot of success in junior.

Unfortunately for Chlapik, he hasn’t quite been able to seize the opportunity that the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons presented to him. He’s dealt with a couple of injuries, but he’s also struggled to secure his spot in spite of the Sens icing some very, very thin line-ups both years. Some of it, I think it’s fair to say, is on him: Chlapik is an average skater a best, and he sometimes struggles to gain separation from NHL defenders. The same moves that got him a full step against junior players only generate half a step against AHL defenders, and sometimes no gap at all against NHLers. In writing about his fall all the way down to #18 in our Top 25 Under 25 last year, I wrote:

During his NHL stints, there were a few times when I remember thinking “his skating could use work” and a typical Chlapik scouting report will almost mention that his skating is his biggest weakness. With a bit more power in his stride, Chlapik might yet get the separation he needs to make truly special plays.

To my eye, not much has changed in this regard: Chlapik’s not a bad skater per se, but it’s probably what’s most preventing him from blossoming into the top six player the Sens were hoping for when they drafted him 48th overall in 2015. The things that made Chlapik very successful in junior have not generated the same offensive results in the NHL. He still often makes good plays with the puck, and he very rarely turns it over needlessly, but he’s also not carving up defenses.

I would also say that it’s fair to wonder how much offence you might reasonably expect someone like Chlapik to generate when his most common linemates last year were J.C Beaudin, Scott Sabourin, Chris Tierney, Colin White, and Tyler Ennis. A murder’s row of goal-scoring talent that is not. Did Chlapik jump up and seize the opportunity? Not entirely. Was he given the best opportunity to succeed in a scoring role? Also probably no.

The big question facing Chlapik now is whether he can grow into a different role, the type that DJ Smith envisions for his bottom six. If he’s going to extend his NHL career, Chlapik will likely need to adapt his style of play to be more of a checker. One of the players that was below Chlapik on the aforementioned 2018 iteration of the Top 25 Under 25 was Nick Paul. Last season, in what was probably his last chance to salvage his career with the Sens, Paul played his way onto a line with Connor Brown and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, where he showed off some defensive chops and a lot of the physical play that Smith values. He also potted a couple goals and got rewarded with a nice two year, one-way contract.

If Chlapik wants to be a part of the Sens’ future, he need not look any further than Paul. Part of this is Chlapik, but part of this is also how pro hockey works (for better or for worse): the coach has a role in mind for you, and if you can fulfill that role you’ll play. Chlapik dramatically increased the number of hits he threw last season, something he’ll likely need to do even more of if he wants to demonstrate that he’s a fit on the team’s fourth line. For what it’s worth, his defensive numbers were very good in his role last year. If the Sens are looking at those type of things, they might find that Chlapik’s quite a serviceable player in that regard.

A final thing to note is that Chlapik is eligible to be claimed on waivers this year. If the Sens aren’t sufficiently impressed with him in training camp, he will need to clear waivers before he can be returned to the AHL. That may give the Sens pause before re-assigning him, but it also means that we might well have seen Chlapik’s last game in a Sens’ uniform. Either way, the young forward is at a bit of a crossroads with the team. Can he adapt his game to be the type of player the organization wants him to be? He certainly seems to be trying.