Islanders’ Chlapik making a name for himself

Filip Chlapik (Darrell Theriault/Charlottetown Islanders)

The Charlottetown Islanders are on a two-on-two break against the Halifax Mooseheads. Projected first-round pick Daniel Sprong has the puck, makes a sharp cut to the right and finds teammate Filip Chlapik sneaking off the boards on the far right wing. Before the defender can process what is happening, the puck is already off Chlapik’s stick and onto teammate Chris Chaddock’s, then into the back of the net.

In the past two years, the only Quebec teams to have had more players drafted by NHL clubs than Charlottetown’s four are Halifax and Baie-Comeau. This after the Islanders had just two players picked in the previous four drafts. But plays like that one against Halifax are becoming the norm in Canada’s smallest province, thanks in large part to the 11th pick of the 2014 import draft, Chlapik. He’s the latest in a somewhat surprising prospect pipeline in P.E.I., and one of the next Islanders slated to be a top NHL selection.

But even with 27 points in 23 games as a rookie and the accolades rolling in, Chlapik is no household name. “Nobody can make out how he actually says it,” says Charlottetown GM Grant Sonier. “I personally call him ‘Sh-lah pik.’ It’s like the C, the H and the A are all together.” Sonier’s version is fitting in that it sounds similar to “slap-stick”—and Chlapik is known around the team for his sense of humour. “Sometimes goofiness can be read the wrong way, and it would be if he wasn’t a high competitor. Because he competes on the ice, his teammates have accepted him for who he is,” says Sonier.

The skilled 6-foot-1, 183-lb. centre from Praha, Czech Republic, leads the Islanders in points, trailed closely by linemate Daniel Sprong. Both were given an A rating by NHL Central Scouting Services this fall meaning both are projected to go in the first round and Sportsnet ranked him 23rd last month. International Scouting Services also ranked him a first-rounder to start the season.

Chlapik roared out to a great start in September, scoring his first goal in game two, and starting a five-game scoring streak. In October, he only found the back of the net once but, thanks to nine assists, finished with just under a point per game on the month. He sees himself as a playmaker and models his game after Evgeni Malkin and Jonathan Toews. “I like to play with the puck, I like passing,” he says.

Chlapik was the player Charlottetown targeted in the import draft. The Islanders’ staff saw him play in Sydney, N.S., at the under-17 tournament last fall as well as the IIHF U18 World Championship in Imatra, Finland in April, where he won silver with the Czech Republic. That tournament was a disappointment scoring-wise with just one assist coming in the gold-medal loss to the U.S. But it wasn’t enough to turn off Sonier. “I just felt he has a chance to be a really good offensive player,” says the GM who was also impressed by Chlapik’s offensive IQ, stick work and vision. He bounced back at home during the Ivan Hlinka tournament with a goal and five points in five games.

Of course, it helps when the player actually wants to go to your town—always an issue with the import draft. “I wanted to go to Charlottetown because I heard it’s a good place,” says Chlapik. Since arriving, he’s shown he’s willing to learn on and off the ice—his English is improving rapidly and despite struggles in a few subjects, he’s doing well in school. “You give him the benefit of the doubt of adjusting to the North American game,” says Troy Dumville of NHL Central Scouting. “It’s clearly evident that he has that high skill level, sees the ice very well, makes the big pass in key situations. It’s been an adjustment and he seems to be responding well.”

Skating is seen as a weakness in Chlapik’s game, but Sonier sees it as a little more complicated than pure speed. “For me, he’s a very deceiving skater and he’s also a very good puck protector, and that’s part of skating, balancem” says the GM. “His potential to grow is very high.”

Chlapik was named the third star of the week on November 10 after picking up seven points in four games, including a 4-1 win over Gatineau where was named the first star with two goals and an assist. He’s averaging over a point per game and is in the league’s top 20 in points. “We’ve got ourselves a really good young European player who loves the game of hockey, has transitioned really well in his first 20 games and I’m really happy with where he is right now,” says Sonier.