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Get to Know a Hurricane: Jaccob Slavin

As part of the build-up to the first-round playoff series between the Capitals and the Hurricanes, Japers’ Rink will be looking at some of the important Canes players and how they might impact the series.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Jaccob Slavin

#74 | Defenseman

Height: 6’3” | Weight: 207 | Born: May 1, 1994

Birthplace: Denver, Colorado | Acquired: Drafted 120th, 2012 (Carolina)

Assets: Has good size, excellent instincts and awareness, plus solid shutdown potential. Shoots the puck well and is also a very sound puck-moving defenseman.

Flaws: Lacks a physical edge, which can somewhat hurt his ability to shut skilled forwards down at the highest level. Is not a natural power-play quarterback.

Career potential: Talented shutdown defenseman with some upside.

(Via TSN)

Via HockeyViz

Why You Should Know Who He Is:

We took a long look at Jaccob Slavin here at Japers’ Rink two years ago, when we compared Dmitry Orlov’s then-new contract with those of other top young defensemen in the league, like Slavin.

This is what we said about Slavin then:

If there’s one thing Slavin knows how to do, it’s get defensive. He’s positively locked down the Carolina blue line like an accurately-tracked tropical storm. Since he joined the league in 2015-16, no other player on this list has faced such difficult assignments or been deployed so fearlessly by his coach. Slavin has taken just 31.3% of his face-offs in the offensive zone, making him the least-sheltered player on this list.

Since then, Slavin has proven himself to be just as reliable. The 2018-2019 campaign marked the third straight season that the young American played in all 82 games, and his 23:02 of ATOI leads all Carolina skaters. Slavin recorded the most blocked shots (133) on the team, and he sees action on both the penalty kill and power play unites.

He is, quite simply, the Hurricanes’ number one defenseman. And it will be up to Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and the rest of the high-flying Capitals offense to find ways to score when he is on the ice.

How the Caps Can Stop Him:

Fortunately for the Capitals, as TSN noted above, Slavin is not much of an offensive threat. He has scored just 23 goals in his four-year career, and five of his eight markers this year came on the power play.

No, Slavin has made his career as a shutdown defenseman. So, how can the Caps keep from getting shutdown? This shooting percentage chart below from HockeyViz may hold the key:

Via HockeyViz

See the far right side of the chart, there? Where the red “Against” line begins dramatically spiking upward? In the final stretch of this season, opponents’ shooting percentage when Slavin is on the ice has skyrocketed. This jibes with the data Hockey-Reference shows for Slavin’s season splits. His combined +/- for the months of January and February was an astronomical +16 to the good. For March and April? It came down to earth, falling to a flat old 0.

Sure, plus-minus is a goober of a stat, but I’ve always felt it’s more telling for defensemen than for forwards. If the Capitals can find ways to get high-quality shots off against Slavin - avoiding the wasted junk shots that he is so adept at blocking - they just might be able to dent his armor. And with Washington dressing 10 skaters this year who posted a >12.0% shooting percentage (well above the league average of 9.5%), the Capitals may be uniquely equipped to do just that.

Work the puck in low to the net or set up behind the goal line; don’t fire away from the perimeter. That’s how the Caps can stop Slavin.