As the Western Hockey League closes the book on the shortened 2019-2020 season, over-aged players move on to further their careers in the professional ranks. The Calgary Hitmen will say farewell and best wishes to team captain, Mark Kastelic.
The 20-year old centerman posted 38 goals and 30 assists in 58 games in his final WHL season before the year was cut short due to the worldwide pandemic. His 68 points were the second-best total in his WHL career, only second to 77 points in 2018-19. Kalstelic was drafted by the Ottawa Senators, 125th overall in the fifth round of the 2019 NHL Draft.
The veteran of five seasons in the Western Hockey League will now make an attempt to crack the Ottawa Senators lineup or begin his pro career in the AHL with the Belleville Senators.
Phoenix Jr. Coyotes:
Mark Kastelic was born on March 11th, 1999 in Phoenix, Arizona. He joins Sean Couturier, Ty Conklin, Jim Brown, Todd Burgess, and Austin Carroll on the small list of players born in Arizona that were drafted to the NHL. Kastelic was born into the game of hockey. His grandfather, Pat Stapleton, played over 600 games for the Bruins and Blackhawks. His father Ed Kastelic played in 220 NHL games for the Washington Capitals and Hartford Whalers.
Before being selected by the Calgary Hitmen in the second round of the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, Kastelic played minor hockey for the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes AAA program. The Jr. Coyotes played in a tournament in Edmonton prior to the draft and his stellar performance caught the eye of the Hitmen personnel at the tournament.
While suiting up for the Coyotes U16 squad, he recorded 15 points and 38 penalty minutes in 24 games. The scouting report on Kastelic read that he was a two-way centerman, who thinks the game well, protects the puck and has a lot of speed and skill. He could also play a physical game and liked to throw the body around.
Following his Jr. Coyote’s career, Kastelic attempted to make the Hitmen roster in 2015. With 18 returning players from the 2014-15 squad that advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, it didn’t leave much space in a crowded dressing room. 6-foot-3 189-pound Kastelic showcased his skills as a centreman and demonstrated he can also play the gritty and greasy game during camp. He went on to make the opening night roster for the Hitmen in 2015-2016. He suited up in 59 games for the Hitmen, posting five goals and five assists as well as one assist in five playoff games.
2016-17 was a year of exposure and growth for Kastelic. Putting on 10 pounds of muscle over the summer training in Phoenix would help him stay healthy and prepared for the long Western Hockey League season. He played in 67 games for the Hitmen and increased his production totals to 13 goals and 22 assists for 35 points.
His productive sophomore season for the Hitmen would land him a spot on the USA U18 team. He played for the American team that captured the silver medal at the 2016-17 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in the Czech Republic.
Although Kastelic wasn’t selected at the 2017 NHL Draft, his productive second season with the Hitmen and play for the US at the international level earned him an invite to San Jose Sharks development and rookie camp.
Entering the 2017-18 season, Kastelic would be added as an alternate captain to the Hitmen leadership group. The club announced Matteo Gennaro as their 25th captain in franchise history. Jake Bean and Beck Malenstyn as the full-time alternate captains and Kastelic would share the third ‘A’ with Luke Coleman. Kastelic continued to increase his production and point totals in his third season in the Western Hockey League. He led the Hitmen in goals with 23 and was third on the team in points with 45.
Kastelic was named to Central Scouting’s Futures List and slotted at No. 182 among North American skaters in the Central Scouting’s final ranking before the draft. Although he set career-highs in goals and points in 2017-18, he was passed over at the NHL draft that summer. Having been passed over in both the 2017 and 2018 NHL Drafts, Kastelic swapped disappointment for a new outlook on his hockey-playing future heading into next season.
Captain Kastelic and the Ottawa Senators:
The Calgary Hitmen announced prior to the 2018-19 season that Mark Kastelic would be named the 26th captain in franchise history. Entering his fourth WHL season with 97 career regular-season games, the 19-year-old recorded 90 points (41-G-49A). A leader on the ice, his calm demeanour was felt throughout the locker room and he quickly became a guy his teammates looked up to.
The newly appointed leader of the Hitmen went on to have a monster year and set career highs in goals, assists, and points. In 66 games, Kastelic scored 47 goals and put up 30 assists for 77 points. If it wasn’t for a late-season suspension, he most likely would have scored 50 goals. He was one of just 16 WHL forwards to finish above 1.00 primary points per game, with only 10 secondary assists all year. He also led the league with 24 powerplay goals.
Kastelic was named to the WHL East Second All-Star Team. He also cleaned up at the Hitmen team awards winning the Flare Skate Blade Leading Scorer, Jr. Hitmen Players’ Choice Award, Edward Jones 3 Star Selection Award, and the Ed Williams Men’s Wear Player of the Year.
After being passed over in his last two years of draft eligibility, Mark Kastelic finally heard his name called at the 2019 NHL Draft by the Ottawa Senators. He was drafted in the fifth round, 125th overall. Kastelic returned to Calgary at the end of August to begin skating with the Hitmen. From there, he went to Ottawa for the Senators’ rookie camp at the beginning of September. Where Kastelic would play his next season had yet to be decided. Kastelic had a chance to play right away for the Senators when the NHL season started in October. He could have also been sent to Ottawa’s American Hockey League affiliate in Belleville.
Final Season with the Hitmen:
Kastelic, after taking in training camp with the National Hockey League’s Ottawa Senators, returned to the Calgary Hitmen for the 2019-2020 season. He entered his fifth campaign with the Hitmen and became the fourth player in franchise history to wear the ‘C’ in back-to-back seasons.
In the season cut short by the pandemic, Kastelic was on track for another outstanding season. In 58 games, the 21-year old WHL graduate posted 38 goals and 30 assists. He claimed more Hitmen team awards at the season’s end, including the three-star selection and players’ choice awards.
In 321 games for the Hitmen, he recorded 126 career goals, the third-highest total in franchise history. Only Brad Moran (204) and Pavel Brendl (172) scored more goals in a Hitmen sweater. Kastelic also finished seventh in the all-time Hitmen scoring with 235 points. Moran (450), Brendl (325), Matt Kinch (306), Brandon Kozun (270), Kris Beech (256), and Ryan White (237) finished ahead of Kastelic. On April 9th, 2020, the Ottawa Senators signed Mark Kastelic to a three-year entry-level deal.
“Since being drafted just last June, Mark has worked hard to earn this contract,” said Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion. “We were pleased to see how he progressed in his overage season in Calgary, where he served as Hitmen captain for two consecutive seasons, and where he was on track to post his most productive major junior season. He’s a solid two-way centre who shows strong attention to detail in his play.”
When the NHL resumes playing for the 2020-2021 season, Kastelic will leave behind a nothing short but of stellar WHL career. He will now try to follow in the footsteps of both his grandfather and father and achieve his life-long dream of playing in the National Hockey League.