Mann of the Year: Mark Kastelic (44%)
Runners up: Viktor Lodin (20%), Maxence Guenette (8%), Philippe Daoust (8%)
This year’s Mann of the Year (awarded to the Ottawa Senators draft pick from the third round or later who had the strongest campaign) is brought to you by the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. For a class that was heavily maligned at the time, things seem to be progressing well enough three years later.
The three highest finishers in voting this year all hail from the 2019 class, and it was fifth-rounder Mark Kastelic who handily beat fourth-rounder Viktor Lodin and seventh-rounder Maxence Guenette. Kastelic, 23, split his second pro season between Ottawa and Belleville, strengthening his case to become a long-term bottom-six center for the organization. The merit to drafting players that trade in high-end offensive potential for a strong all-around game in the later rounds, is that it gives you the best opportunity to ensure the depth roles on your team are always effectively filled for cheap. We should be skeptical when a team does this in the first round of the draft (believe me, we’ll get to that later), but in this case, Kastelic looks like an excellent fifth-round selection.
Thirteen games into his NHL career, he scored his first two goals against the Montreal Canadiens, and a multi-goal performance against the Habs is always a good omen for any Sens prospect drafted after the third round.
After scoring his first goal, a bit of a lucky one that found its way through Carey Price, Kastelic made the moment even more memorable by dropping the gloves with Habs forward Michael Pezetta, effectively getting a goal and a fight on the same play. I’m now expecting some evil genius to discover a way to get the full Gordie Howe hat-trick all at once.
His second goal was a much prettier one — he received a pass from Scott Sabourin behind the net, and froze Price by quickly moving from forehand to backhand, and going top-shelf.
The Senators went on to win that game 6-4, and it was certainly one of their more memorable victories of the season, as it showcased some of the team’s young talent beyond their core of Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Tim Stützle, and Drake Batherson. In particular, both Kastelic and undrafted forward Parker Kelly were two of the team’s best players that game, and Ottawa would most certainly have lost that game without an overall impressive performance from their bottom-six as a whole.
Looking at his totals in the AHL over the past two seasons, his points per game went from 0.32 to 0.44, and while he hasn’t reached the offensive totals of a top-six AHLer, he’s begun to translate his physical tools and underrated offensive ability to the NHL with 4 points in 16 games with Ottawa.
Now that he’s got some NHL experience under his belt, he’ll have a better idea of what to work on in the offseason — we’ve seen high-end players on this team flourish after a period of initial struggle (Batherson, Stützle), now we’ll see if the same principle applies to depth players.