by Brock Ormond | AHL On The Beat
The Belleville Senators are building for the future and the present while looking to reload the NHL parent club, and they are leaning on Zack Ostapchuk to be part of that process.
The St. Albert, Alta., native was selected in the second round, 39th overall, by the Ottawa Senators in 2021 and impressed Belleville head coach David Bell and the Senators brass enough to make the team out of AHL training camp in October.
So far, his coach’s confidence in Ostapchuk has helped him flourish, as he’s one of four players to have skated in all 33 team games so far this season.
“It’s been really good,” Ostapchuk said. “The guys have been super helpful with helping me adjusting to the league.
“I think it took me a little bit to get my feet under me, but I’m starting to get my confidence now and I’m having lots of fun playing here.”
Ostapchuk came to the AHL with a large offensive pedigree from junior hockey. In his four seasons with Winnipeg and Vancouver in the Western Hockey League, the 20-year-old registered 134 points in 187 games, including 69 goals.
Ostapchuk has parlayed that touch around the net into nine tallies in his first American Hockey League season – one off the B-Sens team lead – and 12 points.
However, contributing to the scoresheet is just one part of what is required to be completely successful in professional hockey and playing against grown men instead of teenagers, he noted.
“It’s just about the preparation and taking care of your body,” Ostapchuk said. “I think that was something maybe I didn’t do as much in junior, but it’s a long season, and just taking care of your body and getting your sleep and all that good stuff.”
He said being able to get out on the road and bond with his teammates has not only assisted in easing himself into the pro hockey lifestyle, but also helping build on and off-ice chemistry.
“I think it’s fun seeing new cities that I haven’t played in,” he said. “I’ve never played out east, so when you get to go to Laval and go to Toronto, it’s fun.”
Thanks to a recent seven-game winning streak, Belleville sits in third in a highly competitive North Division with 38 points (17-12-2-2). Ostapchuk said the clear goal for him and the team is to bring postseason hockey back to the Friendly City.
“That’s our goal. We think we have the team to go deep so I think that’s the main focus here,” he explained. “We’ve all got a taste of winning and we like it.”
Ostapchuk, who has scored two game-winning goals for the Senators this season, will certainly continue to be relied upon as Belleville looks to climb up the standings through the second half of the season.