International Ice Hockey Federation

Chlapik on the rise

Chlapik on the rise

Czech centre improving in all areas

Published 25.04.2017 09:17 GMT-4 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Chlapik on the rise
Filip Chlapik is one of the Czech prospects at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
After a forgettable 2015-16 campaign, Czech forward Filip Chlapik is eager to make 2016-17 a season to remember.

The Prague native, who plays for the Charlottetown Islanders, slumped to 54 points in 52 games last year after recording 75 points in 64 games as a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League rookie. He also went pointless in five games at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland as the Czech Republic finished fifth.

Here in Montreal, it’s been a different story for him. Chlapik leads the Czechs with two goals so far. The 19-year-old centre came into this tournament with confidence. He is currently among the QMJHL scoring leaders with 44 points in just 26 games. That includes a franchise-record 21-game point streak (18-19-37) to kick off the season.

“Last season, our first half was really bad, and I was part of it,” Chlapik said. “After we made a couple of good trades, I think things got better, but it wasn’t really what I wanted. Before this season, I had a really big summer. I was confident coming in.”

Encouraged by Islanders GM and coach Jim Hulton to shoot the puck more, Chlapik has responded. Czech coach Jakub Petr stations the 185-cm, 89-kg left-shooting veteran in the right faceoff circle, and the power play often focuses on getting him the puck for a one-timer. In the 4-3 overtime loss to Switzerland, Chlapik scored twice in the third period to help his country secure a valuable point.

“He’s a good player,” captain Filip Hronek said after the Czechs fell 3-2 in overtime to Denmark. “He’s good with the puck and he makes plays. Today he played well. He’s played three games on a high level.”

Asked to describe his game, Chlapik said: “I’m a strong centre who tries to make plays but can score too, a two-way forward. I just try to do my best, be hard on the puck every shift.”

His off-season improvements went beyond shooting. He doubled down on strength and conditioning, worked with a Czech figure skating coach to get his speed up, and practiced his faceoffs. At these World Juniors, the former HC Liberec and HC Sparta Praha player is among the tournament leaders on the draw (70 percent).

“Last season, I just went to the faceoff to go there,” Chlapik said. “But now I want to go out there and win it. We have some set plays, so we can score from that. I’m trying to work hard on it because it’s a big part of the game.”

While he grew up idolizing legendary fellow countryman Jaromir Jagr, he models himself now on big centres who have led their NHL clubs to five of the last seven Stanley Cups: Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks (2010, 2013, 2015) and Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings (2012, 2014).

If he can be even half as successful as those household names, the Ottawa Senators will be overjoyed. Ottawa drafted Chlapik in the second round in 2015 (48th overall) and signed him to a three-year entry level contract on 22 December. A who’s-who of Czech stars have worn the Senators uniform, including everyone from Radek Bonk and Martin Havlat to Dominik Hasek and Vladimir Ruzicka.

“With the contract, it feels really good that they’re happy with me and believe in me,” said Chlapik. “I’m just happy I’m getting an opportunity from them.”

In the weeks ahead, he’s got unfinished business in Charlottetown. The junior hockey franchise, which debuted in 1999 as the Montreal Rocket, moved to the Prince Edward Island provincial capital in 2003 as the P.E.I. Rocket, and assumed its current name in 2013. NHLers who have played in Charlottetown include Maxim Lapierre and Andrej Nestrasil.

The Islanders have never won a QMJHL title, and Charlottetown is most-noted for its local oysters and wine and the Anne of Green Gables books by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Chlapik would love to make a deep playoff run for the picturesque city of 35,000 he’s come to embrace.

“I’m from Prague, and it’s a huge city, so at first it seemed like there was not much to do. But in the summer, it’s really nice. Everyone said so, and I like it now. Of course, I have lots of friends there now, on the team and off the ice. Charlottetown is a part of my life.”

Away from the club’s home arena, the Eastlink Centre, he relaxes by playing the NHL and FIFA video games by EA Sports and checking out local restaurants.

“I’m a big fan of the PlayStation. I just play in Be a GM Mode. I like to take bad teams and make them better. And I like to go for dinner with the guys. I’m always trying to do something. I don’t like to be bored at home.”

Right now, Chlapik is anything but bored as the Czechs gear up for the quarter-finals. On New Year’s Eve, they have one more big test, facing group leader Sweden. It’s time to put the losses to underdogs behind them and focus on playing consistent hockey as they head into the playoffs.

Chlapik and four other Czech players – Hronek, Michael Spacek, David Kase, Jakub Zboril, and Daniel Vladar – have a valuable memory to draw on for inspiration. They were all members of the unheralded 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Championship squad that shocked the hockey world by winning silver.

“You know, I didn’t expect I was going to that U18. When we won the silver medal, it was one of the best feelings in my life. Now, this is my last World Juniors, and I really believe in this group. I think we have a big chance to do something. Everyone knows his role, and it’s just a great group of guys. So if we stick to our system, we can go really far in the tournament.”


Back to Overview