Production increase occurred after return of Sprong
Filip Chlapik is having fun again.
The Charlottetown Islanders sophomore centre struggled, along with his teammates, in the first half.
It came after a rookie Quebec Major Junior Hockey League campaign, which saw him score 33 goals and record 75 points in 64 games. It led to the Ottawa Senators drafting him in the second round.
"I had really big expectations for myself (this year)," Chlapik said Wednesday. "I wanted to do a lot, but it didn't go well in the start."
Chlapik left Charlottetown to join the Czech Republic squad for the world junior tournament following the Islanders Dec. 5 game.
He hadn't scored in 14 games and was frustrated.
"I know the losing was weighing really heavy on him, in particular, in the first half," said head coach Jim Hulton. "I think he felt an extra burden to provide the offence when Daniel (Sprong) wasn't here and we were struggling to score."
General manager Grant Sonier assured the 18-year-old pivot, before Chlapik left for Europe, he wasn't being traded.
When Chlapik rejoined the team about five weeks later, five new players were in the dressing room and his old running mate Sprong had returned from playing with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Chlapik scored in his first game back and has points in 10 of his 14 games in 2016.
Hulton said Chlapik has been more energized and enthused in 2016.
"He has to be loose and relaxed and having fun and being his own person to be successful," he said.
His resurgence has coincided with the Islanders improved play. The team was fighting to make the playoffs in December; now it is trying to earn home-ice advantage.
"I'm just really happy it changed, and we're playing really well," Chlapik said. "I just need to get better everyday and help the team win in the playoffs."
Oliver Cooper, who has recently been skating on a line with Chlapik and Sprong, said the Czech has been playing with more confidence in the second half.
"He's got a little more jump in his stride," he said. "He's been playing well for us and he's having a lot more fun on and off the ice."
Cooper said Chlapik is a skilled player with an "unbelievable" hockey IQ.
"Hopefully the best part of his season is the end of March," he said.
Chlapik is working harder off the ice to get to the next level, too. He said he never trained much away from the rink, but the Senators told him that had to change for him to play professionally.
"I realize if I want to play there, I need to do that," he said, noting he has put an emphasis on getting stronger and quicker.
The Islanders host the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada tonight at 7 p.m.
Hulton said the Armada is one of the stingiest teams in the league in terms of goals and shots allowed.
"It's going to require us to play a lot more patient game, which is good," he said. "It is something we have to add to our game heading into the playoffs."
Goalie Mason McDonald gets the start for the Isles.
A look at Filip Chlapik's scoring by the month during the 2015-16 season:
GP G A Pts.
2 0 1 1
12 6 10 16
10 0 5 5
2 0 1 1
8 3 5 8
6 2 7 9
40 11 29 40