This offseason, after the Washington Capitals won their first Stanley Cup, much ado was made about how the Capitals were keeping the band together, after they returned all but two players from last year’s team (Jay Beagle & Philipp Grubauer). Yet the Capitals did make a few small moves, including snatching Dmitrij Jaskin off waivers from the St. Louis Blues. Ultimately, Jaskin’s core skills are valuable enough to where the Capitals need to keep him in the lineup at all costs, even when Tom Wilson & Travis Boyd return.
Although Jaskin never had a top-6 role on the Blues after being drafted in the second round, he came away from St. Louis with one clear and obvious skill: limiting opposing chances. Jaskin has always been a relatively strong possession player (as Russian Machine Never Breaks noted when Jaskin was signed), and his last 3 years with the Blues shows that the biggest driver of possession comes from his ability to limit opposition offense.
This chart shows Jaskin’s ability, compared to the average Blues player, at reducing shot attempts, goals, and expected goals:
Jaskin’s heat map from Hockeyviz gives us a hint as to why he’s been great at minimizing opposition goals. Note the, um, big blue blob in the middle (indicating he’s allowing fewer shot attempts from that area):
Sean Tierney’s ICE ratings help show another reason Jaskin is effective: he’s a strong, physical skater who is effective in transition and has a strong two-way game:
So why was Jaskin available? It seems Jaskin was the odd man out after the Blues had a massive offseason, and generally was sick of playing on the fourth line (Mike Yeo has had problems misusing players before). In fact, Jaskin asked for a trade a few months ago, but was faced with a wall of disinterest:
Army says Jaskin asked for a trade months ago but the GM couldn’t find one. Army says the mindset changes with a player who wants a new opportunity. #stlblues— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) October 3, 2018
Although Jaskin wasn’t met with much interest, he is undoubtedly helping the Capitals and has been an invaluable waiver pickup.
One of the biggest problems with the Capitals so far this year has been a certain level of, let’s say, defensive indifference, particularly in front of the net. In fact, the Capitals rank as one of the worst teams in hockey at preventing high danger chances:
(It should be noted that the only team below the Capitals, the Anaheim Ducks, have already had multiple people call for head coach Randy Carlyle to be fired.)
Jaskin, however, is one of only two Capitals forwards to create more high danger chances than he prevents, with the other Capitals forward being frequent linemate Nic Dowd:
Again, the story on how Jaskin is doing this is simple, he’s (again!) preventing opponents from occupying any part of the center of the ice. Jaskin’s heatmap from this year looks remarkably similar from his one last year. Below is Jaskin’s heatmap (on the left), compared to the Capitals team-wide heatmap (on the right):
Unsurprisingly, Jaskin’s WOWY (With or Without You) map shows this year, Jaskin has improved the play of everyone who he’s been with. Note how the black dots (skaters playing with Jaskin) improves their shot share compared to the red dots (playing without Jaskin):
As mentioned above, the Capitals have to make a decision about who to remove from the lineup once both Wilson & Boyd return (on a related note, the Capitals recently sent Nathan Walker to Hershey, perhaps in anticipation of this decision). Although the Capitals will have some tough decisions to make either way, it seems clear that whatever decision they make, keeping Jaskin in the lineup is the analytically sound move.