The Ottawa Senators have a deeper prospect pool now than they’ve ever had before. And while that’s only a positive for the Senators organization, it can be a hindrance to players looking to emerge in the NHL. Filip Chlapik currently finds himself in this position.
The Senators having an abundance of centres in their system. On their NHL roster, they have their four centre spots seemingly filled out with Artem Anisimov, Colin White, Chris Tierney, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau down the middle. Outside of the NHL, the Senators also have centre prospects Logan Brown, Josh Norris, Chlapik and recently drafted Shane Pinto.
This presents a problem for Chlapik as the bulk of the Senators’ projected NHL centres are still young players in their mid-20s, and Brown and Norris are ahead on the organization’s depth chart.
However, Chlapik has been a consistent player since he joined the Belleville Senators in the 2017-18 season. Playing 52 games in AHL Belleville in 2017-18, Chlapik registered 11 goals and 21 assists. Towards the end of that season, Chlapik was called up to the big club, where he played 20 games and registered a goal and three assists.
Following that season, it seemed like Chlapik had a reasonable shot at finding his way back into the NHL club’s lineup. But before the 2018-19 season’s training camp got underway, Erik Karlsson was shipped out to the San Jose Sharks. The Senators received two centres back in this trade, Tierney and Norris.
Tierney immediately took a centre spot in the Senators’ top six, while Norris was seen as a good prospect who had top-nine NHL upside. This trade also included left-wing Rudolfs Balcers, who had just come off of a great rookie season for the San Jose Barracuda in the AHL.
Although Balcers wasn’t a centre, he proved his capabilities in the first half of Belleville’s season and was called up to Ottawa for the remainder of the NHL season. By way of his call-up, Balcers filled another roster spot that Chlapik was vying for.
Chlapik would eventually get another chance on the Senators due to injuries on the NHL club. He played in five games in the 2018-19 season, scoring one goal in that span. While he hasn’t produced much offensively in his call-ups, he’s shown that he can, at the very least, effectively play in a bottom-six NHL role. He doesn’t shy away from physical contact or give up the puck too often.
Despite Chlapik being capable of a bottom-six NHL role, it doesn’t appear that the Senators will have a roster spot available to him to start this season. Chlapik will most likely be relegated to first or second-line centre duties in Belleville depending on if Brown cracks Ottawa’s roster or starts the season in the AHL.
The Senators will have to decide on Chlapik’s future with the organization this season. With unrestricted free agent Pageau and restricted free agent Tierney on expiring contracts, it’s possible that Senators could trade one or both of them. This would allow more room for prospects like Chlapik to get another chance at cracking the NHL roster as full-time players.
The Senators could also go the opposite route if they feel like Chlapik doesn’t fit into their long-term plans and package him in a trade for another young forward with more NHL-upside. Either way, the Senators will have to make a decision on Chlapik’s future with the organization. As of right now, there’s no space for him on the NHL roster.
All player stats taken from Hockey-Reference