Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Washington Capitals 2021-2022 Previews -- Forwards: Carl Hagelin

Carl Hagelin

“Power and speed be hands and feet.”
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

He skates like the wind.  He is responsible in his own end.  He kills penalties.  Carl Hagelin is a consummate pro with skills and attitude that teams appreciate, save one.  If he could just finish his chances.  In 2013-2014, with the New York Rangers, Hagelin set a personal high of an 11.8 shooting percentage with 17 goals (a career high he tied the following season) on 144 shots.  Since then, though, Hagelin has not finished a season north of 10 percent shooting, and among 348 forwards appearing in at least 250 games, starting with the 2014-2015 season, he is 337th in shooting percentage (6.9 percent).  One might be forgiven if they do not remember that once upon a time, Hagelin was a reasonably productive goal scorer, averaging 17 goals per 82 games in his first five NHL seasons with the New York Rangers, Anaheim Ducks, and Pittsburgh Penguins, reaching double digits in all five seasons (he has not reached double digits in any of his last three seasons).

Odd Hagelin Fact… Carl Hagelin is the only player in Capitals history to appear in fewer than 150 games with the team (134) and have a rating of plus-25 or better (plus-26).

Odd Hagelin Fact II… Despite being drafted 168th overall in the 2007 Entry Draft (a draft that included Patrick Kane, Jakub Voracek, Max Pacioretty, James van Riemsdyk, and others of note), Hagelin ranks 19th in career points (282).

Fearless’ Take… The Caps have a lot of offensive talent, perhaps enough to absorb whatever Carl Hagelin’s shortcomings might be at that end of the ice (and which might be overstated a tad).  But the Caps need what he brings at the other end in terms of defense and penalty killing, not to mention the threat his speed poses for opponents who are lackadaisical with the puck.  He has the capacity to offer a bit more in offense, as evidenced by his 10 goals per 82 games as a Capital, not an unreasonable number for a fourth line forward.

Cheerless’ Take… It would be a bit much to expect much, if any improvement in Hagelin’s shooting efficiency at this point in his career. What is more, his shooting frequency was down last year, to 6.5 shots per 60 minutes after two seasons over 7.0 shots per 60 minutes.  With a $2.75 million cap hit, he cannot be considered a bargain, but based on his forward cohort last season (30-35 years of age, cap hit of $2.5-3.0 million), he was not overpriced either, unless one considers the entire cohort on the pricey side. 

Potential Milestones to Reach in 2020-2021…

  • 700 career NHL games played (currently 660)
  • 200 career games as a Capital (134)
  • 300 career points (282)
  • 300 career penalty minutes (273)

The Big Question… Can Carl Hagelin discover the fountain of youth?

Carl Hagelin came into the league as a mid-teens goal scorer and consistent 35-plus point producer on a per-82 game basis.  But after five seasons at that pace, his offensive production has fallen off considerably.  Getting fourth line minutes, even with what, by NHL standards, is a good fourth line, might not be conducive to getting back to that early-career level of production, but a ten-goal/25-point scoring pace would be a welcome contribution to provide balance among the forward lines and make the Caps a harder team for opponents to defend.

In the end…

Carl Hagelin provides the Caps with certain attributes that they lack in other parts of their roster – speed and penalty killing perhaps most notable among them.  But Hagelin just turned 33 years old, too (August), and he is one of a number of Capitals on the far side of 30 who bears watching this season (ten current roster players will be 31 or older on Opening Night), especially with the league returning to an 82-game regular season schedule.  It would be nice to see some improvement in Hagelin’s offensive statistics, but the key for him might be at the other end of this ice, and any slippage in that part of his game would be just one more hole the Caps would have to fill in a highly competitive division.

Projection: 77 games, 10-12-22, plus-3