Filip Chlapik is forever grateful that his father took him aside during his youth hockey days to have a little heart-to-heart after he told his father of his urge to be a goaltender.
Nothing against the masked men, but Milan Chlapik envisioned his son excelling in another area on the ice; mainly center.
"I was a big fan of Tomas Vokoun and loved to watch him when I was younger," Filip Chlapik said. "But my dad told me, 'No way. You're going to be a forward.'"
He made the right choice.
Not only has Filip Chlapik excelled while playing in his native Czech Republic for many years but he has been on the radar of every NHL scout attending games for the Charlottetown Islanders in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2014-15.
"Filip is a very good skater with good vision and puck skills," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "He always seems to be in the right position on the ice both with and without the puck, he can jump on loose pucks and transition quickly. He's got a good combination of size, skating and hockey sense."
The Islanders selected Chlapik No. 11 in the 2014 Canadian Hockey League import draft after he had16 goals and 35 points in 38 games with Sparta's team in the under-20 Czech league.
"I watched him quite a bit internationally and we put a great deal of stock as other teams do in trying to secure good picks," Islanders general manager Grant Sonier said. "What I liked about Filip in particular was that he's got a high skill level but also a high hockey IQ, and that's a good combination to have."
Chlapik (6-foot-1, 196 pounds), who models his game after Boston Bruins center David Krejci, considers himself a two-way center with good vision and playmaking ability. It didn't take long for the left-handed shot to warm up to the North American game.
The Praha native had 33 goals, 42 assists and 10 power-play goals in 64 regular-season games and was second on the Islanders in scoring with 75 points. In nine QMJHL playoff games he had one goal and nine points. Chlapik had his first hat trick Nov. 16, scoring on a breakaway, a one-timer and a shot from the top of the circle in a 5-1 defeat of the Drummondville Voltigeurs. He had 24 multipoint games this season, including six in March when he had six goals and 14 points in nine games.
The Islanders (35-28-5) improved from a 15th-place finish in the league standings in 2013-14 to ninth place this season. They also won a first-round playoff series for the first time since 2004, when the team was known as the PEI Rocket.
"It was hard at the start because it was a new place and I had to get used to the battles in the corners," Chlapik said. "It's a physical game but I don't mind that. It wasn't this physical in Czech; it was a more wide-open game. But I got used to this."
Chlapik said maintaining a healthy diet has been one of his bigger challenges.
"The food here is a little different than in the Czech because in the Czech I eat a lot of pasta. But there's a lot more fast food in North America so you really have to watch," Chlapik said. "I've gone to several different places."
Off the ice, Islanders coach Gordie Dwyer said Chlapik can be the life of the party.
"He's endeared himself to his teammates and the fans; he's got a real way about him and he certainly doesn't go unnoticed," Dwyer said. "His personality really does shine through."
Dwyer also liked what he saw on the ice. Chlapik is No. 18 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American players eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., on June 26-27.
"He's a big body with a heavy shot and he thinks the game really well," Dwyer said. "He's really strong defensively, is a 200-foot player. He's a guy who distributes the puck well and is able to find the open areas and open man on the ice."
Chlapik has played for the Czech Republic at several international tournaments, including the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, where he had one goal and four points in five games to help his country to a silver medal. Chlapik also played at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and the IIHF World Under-18 Championship last season.
"He's not the perfect player, and I don't think there is such a thing, but Filip fit the things we needed as an organization," Sonier said. "I wanted us bigger down the middle and both of our European picks were centers, so it addressed an actual need. We were lucky that Filip slipped to us because we felt he was a top player in the draft for sure."
Chlapik skated with different linemates this season, but he most often played with right wing Daniel Sprong (6-foot, 180), No. 20 on Central Scouting's final ranking. Sprong, born in the Netherlands, is in his second season with the Islanders. He led Charlottetown with 39 goals and 88 points in 68 games.
"He's a very skillful player with great vision and we play really well with each other," Sprong said of Chlapik. "We like to play that European east/west style. At the same time we know when to play north/south and use our skill but also our size and strength to work down low on the cycle."
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer