Schastlivy gets opportunity to redeem himself

By Jake Dole
When Petr Schastlivy was drafted 101st overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 1998 draft, word got around that the Sens selected a steal. The young left winger was known as an exceptionally talented goal-scoring sniper with great puck-control ability. Drafted out of Torpedo-Yaroslavl, Petr was drawing raves from the Ottawa scouts, who were convinced that they had the potential to develop into a future NHL star.

After another year of development in Russia, Schastlivy moved on to North America and got his first taste of the game in the foreign continent. Starting off in the prospects camp at Hull, Schastlivy was easily one of the best players there. Despite certain defensive deficiencies, Petr stood out with his excellent 1 on 1 ability. Soon enough, he got the call to try out for the Senators at the team’s training camp.

When it came to first impressions, it is safe to say that Petr did not disappoint. In fact, in the seven games of camp, he tied the team lead in points with 6 in 7 games, Marian Hossa being the other to draw even. However, despite his performance, the 20-year old was cut, mainly because of the team’s depth of speed and skill. As a result, Schastlivy spent most of the year in the IHL, playing for the Grand Rapids Griffiths.

The training camp was not the only highlight of his career to that point. In fact, Schastlivy was the member of the 1999 Russian U-18 gold medal winning team in Winnipeg. There, he performed admirably with the likes of Maxim Balmochnykh, Maxim Afinogenov and Vitaly Vishnevksy.

A solid season in Grand Rapids earned Schastlivy as promotion in the year 2000. In 46 games in the IHL, Petr scored 16 goals and collected 28 points in 46 games. He, along with teammate defenseman Jon Gruden made the IHL all-star team. The promotion, mainly as a result of injuries to Shaun Van Allen and Mike Fisher, gave Schastlivy the opportunity to prove to others that he was able to produce at the NHL level. Ultimately, he compiled 7 points in 13 games with a solid +/- 4 rating. Although, he did not exactly dominate, Petr received his own share of praise.

“I compare him to a guy like Patrik Elias in New Jersey,” Senators Coach Jacques Martin said. “He had to spend a few years in the minors before he was ready and I just think a guy like Schastlivy needs more time.”

Martin was very positive about Petr’s development, but stated that Schastlivy needed to improve defensively in order to become a full-time NHL’er. Despite his great individual play, Martin noted that the key for Petr was to concentrate on his game without the puck and improve his work ethic and intensity on the ice.

It is important to note that Schastlivy’s difficulties to master the English language resulted in problems such as picking up certain calls and comprehending instructions. Despite playing on the line with Radek Bonk and Marian Hossa, Petr was oftentimes caught out of position which created several fast break opportunities for the opposing teams.

The 2000 training camp turned out to be disappointing for Schastlivy, as hopes and expectations were extremely high coming in. Anticipating improvements defensively from Petr, the Senators saw little progress from the left winger. He played very individually and tended to overhandle the puck, perhaps trying too hard. As a result, Petr didn’t last long at camp and was once again demoted to the IHL, where he would remain until late in the year.

To the surprise of many, Schastlivy failed to perform up to expectations there as well. Possessing excellent finishing ability Petr was expected to dominate, however his production remain simply tolerable, for the lack of a better word. Showing little enthusiasm and work ethic, the first half of the season seemed like a complete wash for Schastlivy. However, he did pick it up in the second half, showing an improved scoring touch and an added degree of defensive awareness. With the hopes of a call-up, Schastlivy turned on the jets at the right time.

Returning to Ottawa, Petr remained his inconsistent self. Exhibiting some defensive advancements, his offense went somewhat dry. Despite showcasing a lesser amount of neutral zone brain cramps on the ice, he mustered a grand total of 3 goals, 5 points in 17 games. With a couple of lackluster NHL performances, Schastlivy was criticized by numerous writers for his lack of ethic and willingness to get involved physically. Needless to say, Petr’s value as a prospect took a considerable dive.

With the 2001-2002 season coming up, it looks like Schastlivy will get what might be his last chance to make the Ottawa Senators. There is no doubt that at 22, he is due to finally break out and produce as expected. If he does perform at a satisfactory level, Petr should make the team without any roadblocks. The Senators are getting younger and, as of now, there are more spots open in the lineup to be filled by youthful players. Unless the Senators acquire more immediate help this off-season, a spot is already open for Peter Schastlivy, which only he can lose.

Despite some of the hard times developing in the Senators organizations, many are still high on Schastlivy with high hopes for his future. Sens’ assistant coach Perry Pearn has stated that Petr is one of the few players in the league with pure scoring ability.

“He’s a good passer, but he’s especially good when he has the puck,” said Pearn. “Not everyone has that talent, but he needs to work on what to do when he doesn’t have the puck.”

Whether or not Schastlivy does learn his two-way responsibilities remains to be seen. But one thing is certain, with Jacque Martin’s defensively minded system, Petr cannot get away with being a one-sided player.