For anyone catching up, a menu of previous player (and also coaching and GM) report cards can be found at the bottom of the article.
Jaccob Slavin’s starting point for the 2016-17 season
After making development strides in his third season with the Chicago Steel in the USHL and then two seasons at Colorado College after being drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 NHL draft, Slavin signed his NHL entry-level contract and moved to the professional level for the 2015-16 season. He had a strong training camp, made an impression that suggested he was closer to NHL-ready maybe than expected but ultimately departed for the AHL at the end of camp.
After a short 14-game stint in Charlotte, Jaccob Slavin was called up from the AHL and made his NHL debut on November 20, 2016. Initially, Slavin looked comfortable and capable in a third pairing role, and he progressed rapidly from that modest starting point. From the point when Justin Faulk first went down with an injury before a game on February 12, Slavin averaged an even 24:00 of ice time in a top pairing role and grew to become the team’s best defenseman down the stretch. The run of about 30 games was eye-opening and had Slavin clearly on an upward trajectory heading into the 2016-17 season.
Jaccob Slavin’s 2016-17 season with the Carolina Hurricanes
As impressive as Slavin was in the second half of the 2015-16, he entered the 2016-17 season with only 63 games of NHL experience. With the departure of John-Michael Liles at the 2016 trade deadline and no top half of the roster additions for the blue line, Slavin arrived in training camp slotted into a top 4 role and with the hope that he could pick up where he left off the previous spring. He did exactly that. After a couple games playing on a top pairing with Justin Faulk, Peters shuffled the blue line putting sophomores Slavin and Pesce together. The pairing worked instantly. Within a few games, the newly-minted duo of 23-year olds was the Hurricanes’ top pairing lining up against elite scoring lines as much as Peters could get that match up.
And just like that, the Carolina Hurricanes had a top defense pairing of two players in their second year in the NHL. Even better, the duo was not learning on the job but rather were excelling at the job. What stood out about Slavin’s play against many of the NHL’s best was his ability to take away time and space. He stepped up to defend aggressively at the blue line or in the neutral zone when the opportunity was there. He defended the blue line when he had support and left small gaps defending one on one. And he was incredibly quick to loose pucks. In general, he just did not allow much for time, space or opportunity for good players to make good plays against him.
The offensive part of his game was not bad but also somewhat slower in developing. He seemed to find a higher level in the final quarter of the season when he collected 3 goals and 10 assists in 17 games in March.
When the season ended, Jaccob Slavin earned my vote for team MVP narrowly edging out Jeff Skinner (who I think also has a very good case for such an award). His 23:26 of ice time and every night steady play kept the team in games on a nightly basis. In addition, his scoring from the back end is underrated when one considers that 30 of his 34 points came at even strength. (Hanifin received only a partial helping of power play ice time at 0:55 per game compared to Faulk who led defensemen with 2:43 and Hanifin who was second at 2:01.) Slavin led the team in ice time, plus/minus (tied with partner Brett Pesce), Takeaways and even strength scoring for defensemen. He played all 82 games and had 5 goals and 29 assists while establishing himself as a top pairing NHL defenseman.
Grading Jaccob Slavin
Graded as: Young top 4 defenseman aiming to pick up where he left off at the end of the 2015-16 season.
Grade: A. I really do not think you could ask anything else of Jaccob Slavin’s 2016-17 season except for maybe a tiny bit more offensive production. Even that has a disclaimer since his scoring was decent when you adjust for his part-time role on the power play.
He was a legitimate top pairing defenseman, not a young player struggling at times to step into this role and was at least one of the team’s two or three best players if not the best. In accomplishing that, he easily met or exceeded the target of being a solid top 4 defenseman.
Looking forward to 2017-18
At a basic level, the goal for Jaccob Slavin in 2017-18 is to simply repeat what he did in 2016-17. If he can be a plus player at even strength for 22-24 minutes per night against the other teams’ best, he will have done his part to help the team win.
The upside in his game is twofold. First, there is room for him to use his skating ability to be more of an offensive catalyst finding opportunities to create offense in transition either moving the puck forward quickly or carrying on the attack when the openings are there. He showed flashes of this throughout the season. He also made significant and what seemed like sudden strides generating offense from the point inside of an offensive zone set. The ability to find and/or create shooting lanes to the net entered his game in a big way in the final month or so of the season. The result was Slavin regularly finding ways to get the puck past the shin guards in front of him and to the front of the net timed well with a teammate heading there for a screen, deflection or rebound. The burgeoning offensive potential that could emerge in 2017-18 is what most makes me want to lock him into his next contract before the price potentially rises. Jaccob Slavin also has the potential to take on more of a leadership role as he settles into his significant role in the lineup.
What say you Canes fans?
Was Jaccob Slavin as good as I rate him? He is only 23 years old and two seasons deep in his NHL career, so what areas do you see for improvement?
What do you see as the most effective use for Slavin in building the 2017-18 blue line? Do you leave Slavin and Pesce together to be your top pairing into the future? Or do you consider splitting them to support other players and balance the defense?
Previous report card articles