The Next Level

Candice Ward/Photo

The bar keeps getting raised.

Each season since breaking into the WHL back in 2015, Mark Kastelic has made significant jumps and this past year was no different.

From setting new career highs in goals and points to taking on more of a leadership role, 2017-18 was yet another breakout year for the centreman.

“It was a huge accomplishment for me getting over 20 goals,” Kastelic said.  “That was the goal I set for myself headed into the year and I was thrilled when I got it. It seemed like for a bit there it was getting harder to get but I was playing with a lot of confidence and my teammates were a big part of it.

“With the team success comes my success and it showed during that stretch towards the end of the season.”

With 23 goals on the year, the Arizona native also finished with 45 points which was  third in team scoring, the first time in his three-year tenure with the Hitmen he has finished among the club leaders.

A large part in the 19-year-old finding more success in the offensive zone was the chemistry he developed alongside fellow ’99 born forward Luke Coleman. The duo are a towering presence up front, as all season they wreaked havoc on the cycle making life hard for opposing defenders.

“Our bread and butter is getting the puck deep and going to work down low,” Kastelic said. “We have solid chemistry and built on it as the season went on. We’re both big guys who can skate and we’re always looking to provide a spark and outwork the other lines.

“We want to be the hardest workers on the ice and it paid off for us.”

Kastelic’s strong work ethic has been a staple his entire life, and it’s a surreal feeling for him knowing that he’s no longer the bright-eyed 16-year-old adjusting to the league that he once was.

On top of it all, there was an added amount of responsibility put on his shoulders that he took on, coming into his own as one of the leaders on a very young hockey club this past season.

“It was a learning curve for me this year, stepping into that leadership role early on and it helped shape me into who I am now,” he said. “It made me more excited to have an even larger role in that for next year and honestly it’s an exciting time for our team.

“We’re disappointed with this year’s finish and we’ll use that to fuel us. We want to be in playoffs and make a deep run. Win a championship and win the Memorial Cup. That’s the goal every year.”

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