North of The Border: From The Desert To The Rockies
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Mark Kastelic is in his fifth and final year of Junior eligibility playing for the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League (WHL). The 21-year-old Arizona native has grown substantially as a hockey player in his five years playing in the WHL. He was picked in the 5th round of the 2019 NHL draft and is looking to follow his father Ed's footsteps in making it to the NHL.
Growing up in Phoenix, Ariz., Kastelic played for the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes organization during his youth hockey years. During 2013-14, his WHL draft year, he put up 29-23-52 numbers in 51 games for the Jr Coyotes Bantam AAA team. Those numbers caught the attention of the Hitmen who drafted him in the 2nd round (41st overall) that year in the WHL draft. Kastelic played one year of U16 hockey for the Jr. Coyotes, posting 5-10-15 numbers in 24 games before making the jump to the Western league the following year.
It is worth noting Kastelic holds citizenship in both the United States and Canada. He has attended development camps for both USA Hockey as well as Hockey Canada but played for Team USA in the Hilinka Gretzky Cup back in 2016.
Coming to the WHL at 16 is no easy task. Playing against 20-year-old men, as well as some of the top NHL prospects in the world, can lead to culture shock for some young hockey players entering the league. During his rookie season in 2015-16 Kastelic struggled offensively, scoring five goals and adding five assists for 10 points in 59 contests.
In each subsequent year he has shown significant growth on the ice. In his second year he put up 13-22-35 numbers; in his third year he added 10 more points (23-22-45) and wore an "A" as an assistant captain. His point production really shot up during his 19-year-old season where he put up 47-30-77 numbers while wearing the "C" for the Hitmen. The Ottawa Senators took notice and selected him in last year's draft, after he had been passed up the two years prior. The now 21-year-old has had another productive season thus far, sitting at 33-28-61 in 51 games while still donning the "C."
Looking at Kastelic's career in Calgary is an interesting one. First off, it is not common to play five years in the WHL, especially not with the team by whom you were drafted. As it sits today Kastelic is seventh all-time in career games played with the Hitmen at 314 and could jump as high as fourth by the end of the season. He also sits eighth all-time in career points by a member of the Hitmen at 228.
Mark Kastelic has had a very successful Junior hockey career thus far, and his career seems to be far from over. We wish Mark the best moving forward.