Believe it or not, Filip Chlapik has already skated in 52 NHL games. The most he’s actually played in a game is 17:27 back on March 20, 2018. There’s something wrong here.
In what is essentially a lost year for the Ottawa Senators, the team’s loyal fanbase has preached a desire to see what, and who is coming up for the future. Rookie head coach D.J. Smith has done a fine job of integrating some young players into the NHL mix.
Fans have seen extended cameos from Erik Brannstrom, Logan Brown and most recently, Drake Batherson. The guy that has featured the most consistently throughout the year, is Filip Chlapik, yet he seems to be the least trusted. The most difficult part of understanding Chlapik’s usage, is answering the question of why it has been so sporadic.
The best comparison to Chlapik’s situation is Nick Paul. After bouncing between the NHL and AHL for 4 years, without an extended look in the former, he’s finally been a mainstay NHL player this year, and has earned D.J. Smith’s trust. Chlapik on the other hand, can’t seem to buy more than fourth line minutes.
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Chlapik has 2 goals and 3 assists in 27 games this year. On counting metrics, it’s not much, but understandable considering that he averages only 8:52 of ice-time per game. At just 22 years old, Chlapik still has time to grow and become a solid middle-six forward. If he’s not able to grow at the NHL level, why isn’t he playing a pivotal role in the Belleville Senators playoff push?
This is certainly not a case of “is Filip Chlapik ready for the NHL?” Infact, he has excelled in his limited minutes. Chlapik has good control of the team’s expected goals share, with an impressive 55.70 xGF%, one of the highest marks on the team. His high-danger Corsi for percentage has also increased a lot this season (in simple terms, his chances created that represent a high chance of scoring), from 41.38HDCF% to 61.76HDCF%, evidencing that he’s creating higher quality attempts on goal. (All stats via NaturalStatTrick)
Chlapik still sits on 5 points, but if his underlying numbers suggest anything, it’s that he’s playing pretty well. The quality of competition he’s coming up against isn’t great, but if he’s outplaying other bottom six players, wouldn’t it be worth giving him a look with some of the team’s scoring talent?
For more traditional metrics, which D.J. Smith and the Senators brass are more likely to favour, Chlapik has also made himself a case. His physical play has taken a step, as he’s made 60 hits this year, which has him in the team’s top 10. He’s also passed the ‘eye-test,’ and he has seemingly looked relatively comfortable on defence, and transition play. (Stats via Hockey Reference)
The Ottawa Senators could be selling off many pieces of their forward group over the next month, ahead of the trade deadline. It may force D.J. Smith to provide Chlapik an overdue extended look. If this current trend were to continue though, there might not be much left for the player within the organization.
Chlapik has seemingly stagnated during his time in the AHL this season, with a disappointing 14 points in 24 games, on a great Belleville team. If the Senators don’t have hopes for him in the NHL, then perhaps he becomes a trade chip the team uses to upgrade areas of their roster in the off-season.
What D.J. Smith and the Senators brass decide for Chlapik is up in the air, but he’s certainly proven to be an effective bottom-six forward, and his play has at least warranted an opportunity to play more than 8:52 a night. In a lost year, it’s essential that the emphasis continues to be on player development, and finding out how good their minor system truly is. It’s time to stop misusing Filip Chlapik.