Hockey runs through the blood of Mark Kastelic.
The 20-year-old has been engrossed in the game since he was 7 years old. He was tutored by his father, Ed Kastelic, who played professionally for 21 years, including 7 for the Washington Capitals, and Hartford Whalers in the National Hockey League.
He also was mentored at times by his grandfather, Pat Stapleton, who played 10 seasons in the NHL with the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks before playing another five with the Chicago Cougars, Indianapolis Racers and Cincinnati Stingers of the World Hockey Association from 1973-78.
“They taught me that having a good work ethic is important,” Kastelic said. “Just with my dad’s journey, it’s never going to be easy or pretty and nothing is ever going to be handed to you.
“Just continuing to work and always believe in myself is one of the biggest things they’ve taught me along the way.”
Kastelic played as a kid at what was formerly known as Polar Ice Chandler, now called Ice Den. He continued to play for the Jr. Coyotes there while attending Desert Vista High School his freshman and sophomore years. At 16, he was drafted by the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League, a major junior hockey league based in Canada and the northwestern part of the United States.
After four years with the Hitmen, Kastelic was again drafted. This time, however, it was by the Ottawa Senators in the 5th round of the 2019 NHL Draft on June 21-22.
“I was kind of at a loss for words when it first happened,” Kastelic said. “My parents were both there and were so excited for me. It was a good moment for my family. I was super excited and I’m grateful that Ottawa drafted me.”
Kastelic first became eligible for the NHL Draft two years ago, but wasn’t picked. He appeared in 66 games this past season for Calgary, scoring a team-high 47 goals and 30 assists.
“It feels good as a parent,” the older Kastelic said. “We went through a lot of ups and downs over the years. Even when he was drafted into the WHL, that felt good. But this kind of puts an exclamation point on everything.”
He recently took part in Ottawa’s Development Camp, which featured all of this year’s draft picks and some from previous seasons. It was there that Kastelic got his first on-ice experience in the NHL, competing in an intra-squad scrimmage. He also took part in fitness tests and several seminars, including one focused on nutrition.
“It was an awesome experience, we learned a lot,” Kastelic said. “You got to know the guys a little bit and hang out with them off the ice. It was a great experience and I learned a lot in a short amount of time. I’m looking forward to going back already.”
Canada has become a home away from home for Kastelic since he began playing in Calgary. He stayed with a billet family, which offers room and board to junior hockey players who are away from home.
He attended a local high school there, and graduated as a senior. He returned home to Ahwatukee in the summer months, taking the short amount of time he had away from hockey to spend with his family.
“It’s always an adjustment getting used to a new city, a new place,” Kastelic said. “I was definitely homesick the first year but I eventually settled in. I’m sure it will be another adjustment going to a new place, wherever it is.
“But I’m just going to try and enjoy the experience as much as I can. I’ll keep in touch with my family and I think the more I’m there the more it will feel like home.”
Kastelic will return to Calgary at the end of August to begin skating with the Hitmen. From there, he will go to Ottawa for the Senators’ rookie camp in the beginning of September.
Exactly where Kastelic will play next season has yet to be decided. He has a chance to play right away for the Senators when the NHL season begins in October. He could also be sent to Ottawa’s American Hockey League affiliate, Belleville, in Ontario, Canada.
Or, he can return to Calgary and play another season for the Hitmen.
No matter where he ends up, Kastelic plans to continue working hard to accomplish his goal of playing in the NHL.
“I don’t want to get to ahead of myself, I just want to stay level-headed and help put Arizona hockey on the map,” Kastelic said. “I want to win a Stanley Cup. I’m not going to stop working until that happens.
“If I do that, I think I’ll be able to accomplish my goal at the end.”