Senators forward Mark Kastelic clearly has all the tools to be the perfect bottom-six NHL forward.
Heading into the Ottawa Senators’ skills competition on Sunday, most fans regarded Kastelic as a big, solid, hard-working, physical, defensive player who doesn’t mind dropping the gloves. Not many would have viewed Kastelic as one of the fastest players on the team or capable of winning the club’s fastest skater competition.
But that’s just what he did on Sunday.
Kastelic’s speed is reminiscent of former Senator Colin Greening, who made the final at the 2012 NHL All-Star Skills Competition. Both are big bodies, who’ll never be the quickest in shorter races, but once they get up to speed over distance, then look out – they’re total rockets.
None of this was a surprise to teammate Drake Batherson, who won the hardest shot competition.
“It’s a little bit deceiving,” said Batherson. “You get a guy who’s five-foot-seven out there and his legs are going a million miles an hour. Then you get a guy like myself or Kastelic, we’re 6 foot 3, our one stride is like two or three for those little guys. Kastelic actually won our skating competition at conditioning camp, so I know he can skate and he’s in unbelievable shape. It was pretty close. There’s a lot of fast guys out there but Kasty took ‘er home.”
Sens fans might also be surprised to learn how elite Kastelic is in taking faceoffs. Right now, he stands in sixth place in the entire NHL with a faceoff winning percentage of 60.3 percent. Veteran Claude Giroux is due a tip of the cap for the work he’s done in helping his far younger teammates in the faceoff circle.
So, Kastelic seems to have all the tools to be a force in the league, with one major exception – his lack of scoring touch. With his speed and size, he does create quality opportunities for himself, but almost appears overexcited when those great chances present themselves. So far, he has just 8 points in 52 NHL games and that’s not much, even by fourth line standards.
This is why the Sens were able to seamlessly re-sign him in October to a two-year extension worth only $835 thousand per season, exactly ten times less than Tim Stutzle ($8.35M) will be making up at the top of the Sens’ centre-ice batting order.
But his physical tools and his history strongly suggest Kastelic is capable of more offence than he’s shown thus far. The 23-year-old had some serious numbers in major junior, scoring 85 goals and 60 assists in his final two years in Calgary. Once he feels fully at home and confident in the NHL – and beating Stutzle in the team’s fastest skater competition certainly won’t hurt – perhaps he’ll eventually come around in that area.
D.J. Smith would certainly welcome a little extra offence from his bottom six, and Kastelic definitely seems to specialize in pleasant surprises.
By Steve Warne