FeatureSports

Mark Kastelic Finds His Groove

Photo by Chris Tanouye

Almost every NHL player was once a big star back in junior hockey, college, or the minors. But in the NHL – the best and richest league in the world – it goes without saying the jobs are limited. Even if players get to the league, they certainly can’t count on becoming a star, getting power play or top line minutes every night. For some, if they wish to stay in the NHL, they have to transition to becoming a role player. And that can require an adjustment period.

That’s how it’s been for Ottawa Senators centre Mark Kastelic, who’s just completed his second full season in the NHL.

Photography by Chris Tanouye

When the Sens drafted him out of junior in 2019, Kastelic was a force, scoring 47 goals for the Calgary Hitmen. But since his draft day, the past five years have all been about adjusting to the pros – a journey from leading man to supporting cast member. And Kastelic looks like a man who’s begun to figure things out.

At 6-foot-4, 226 pounds, Kastelic was already one of the strongest, fastest players on the team. But in the second half of this past season in Ottawa, he really began showing up with authority, chipping in with more offence.

“I think all my experiences up until now prepared me for that position as a fourth line guy in the NHL,” Kastelic said.

Photo by Chris Tanouye

Faces: What’s your general thought on how the season went in Ottawa?

Kastelic: Yeah, it’s definitely been a little bit of a difficult year. Just thinking back to last season, it was really fun to be battling right down to the wire for a playoff spot. And obviously, I’m still just very thankful to be in this situation. But I don’t think it’s very easy for anybody involved. I think we’re all a little bit frustrated.

How would you describe your individual season?

I think it was an up and down season. After my high ankle sprain in November, that was a little bit of a learning curve. I’ve never been really injured that long in my career. And I think I kind of came back and started to find a little bit of a groove.

Your father, Ed Kastelic, played in the NHL too. Does he give you hockey advice?

Yeah, I talk to him all the time. The season is so long and you can have a lot of negativity coming in from all kinds of different areas. Both my parents are really great for helping me stay positive and believing in myself and staying confident in my abilities.

What was the coaching change like, going from D.J. Smith to Jacques Martin?

I think the biggest change is the little differences in philosophies. Personality wise, D.J was a pretty loud and energetic guy and Jacques is a little more quiet and reserved. In my opinion, they’re both great coaches in their own way. I’ve never experienced a coaching change in mid-season and I think when your new guy comes in, you want to just try to make a good first impression.

What are your early thoughts on the new owner, Michael Andlauer?

The thing I get is he just cares so much about us and the team and doing whatever he can to make sure that we’re provided with the best opportunity to perform. I have so much respect for him already and it’s been fun to see him come in with the passion he has. We spent some time with him on trips and team building activities and he’s fun to talk to. He’s just a very positive energy to have around.

While the playoffs weren’t in the cards foryou guys this season, it really seems to bea closely-knit group that gets along great.

Yeah, I agree with that 100%. We’re a tight group and we’re all in the same age range pretty much, other than a few of the veteran guys. And that makes it pretty fun to come to the rink every day. And we have great leaders in there that bring everybody along with them.

If he continues on his current trajectory in Ottawa, Kastelic may one day find himself among those leaders.

Photo by Chris Tanouye

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