#19: Mark Kastelic (Last Year: NR, Reader Rank: 16)
Clocking in at #19 on our Top 25 Under 25 is Mark Kastelic, a fifth-round selection from the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Kastelic was drafted, when as captain of the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, scored 47 goals and 30 assists in 67 games in 2018-19. However, this was during his fourth year of junior, as he was undrafted twice after first being eligible in 2017, similar to Viktor Lodin, who we wrote about last week.
Ottawa drafted the 6’3 centre with their bottom-six in mind. Even if his ceiling isn’t as high as others, there are plenty of comparable players on good NHL teams, and a big part of a team’s success can hinge on how much you’re spending on those players. That’s why having multiple young players with team control is important because it frees up more cash to spend on your Alex DeBrincats and Brady Tkachuks. Kastelic is the kind of depth player that head coach D.J. Smith, the Senators, and the fans love because he’s always looking to make an impact, most notably by introducing opposing players to the ice surface.
Mark Kastelic avenges his teammate with a big hit. He’s still hustling at full speed despite playing significant minutes. pic.twitter.com/QoDjMQiww3— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) May 5, 2022
At 23 years old, now is the perfect time for Kastelic to cement his place as a key depth player on Ottawa’s roster. They’re very well set up down the middle with Josh Norris, Tim Stutzle, and Shane Pinto, but a spot on the fourth line is wide open. Kastelic got into 16 games for the big club last season, contributing two goals and two assists. Here are a couple of notable plays from his first NHL game:
- At 1:19, he intercepts a clearing attempt and threads a pass to Egor Sokolov, creating a high-danger chance.
- At 1:46, he disrupts the Ducks’ movement of the puck in the offensive zone and is able to clear it out of danger.
- At 2:24, he’ll leave the offensive zone, and backcheck to take the puck from Derek Grant.
A sign that he’ll be a fan favorite? His strongest game of the year came against the Montreal Canadiens on April 23rd, in which he scored his first two NHL goals, and had a 5-on-5 expected goals share of 53.08%. His team as a whole finished at 32.56% by that same metric.
So, first Ridly Greig gets an NHL suspension before playing an NHL game, and now Kastelic gets his first NHL goal and fight on the same shift. I’m fully expecting a full-roster brawl to follow Brady’s Cup-winning overtime goal this season. That’s just the kind of team the Ottawa Senators are aiming to be.
You might look at that goal as a fluke, but with his second of the game, there’s no debate. Find a seam in the opposing coverage, make a quick move to the backhand in tight, to cap off a strong shift from him, Chris Tierney(?), and Scott Sabourin(!?).
Kastelic hasn’t produced at an amazing rate in Belleville thus far, with 28 points in 64 games this past season. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t ready for a full-time NHL role next season. Belleville head coach Troy Mann, as early as in the 2020-21 campaign, identified Kastelic as the hardest worker on the team (which also included Parker Kelly by the way), and the Sportsnet broadcast took note of his positioning at both ends of the ice.
It also helps that he’s strong in the faceoff dot, posting a 58.3% win rate in the NHL. If he can re-discover some of that scoring touch from junior, he might be able to beat the odds and become more than a good fourth-line forward.
Mark Kastelic ties the game with a nasty deflection! #GoSensGo— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) April 24, 2022
That's two NHL goals and one AHL goal for Kastelic in the last two nights. He's playing in his third game in the last three days. pic.twitter.com/Phb0yXQ5SI