Google Jaccob Slavin and you’ll see a lot of phrases like “hidden gem,” “superstar in the making” and “diamond in the rough.”
Perhaps soon, the word will be out. He’s on the Carolina Hurricanes’ top defensive pairing. He earned two fifth-place votes for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s best defenseman, this year. He has a lengthy contract extension in hand.
The Erie native, 23, has also become a clutch shootout scorer for the Hurricanes, converting 36.4 percent of his career attempts. His signature move – wait, deke, shift to the backhand and roof it – is one he’s used since youth hockey, and honed at Colorado College.
“My dad’s always liked that one,” Slavin chuckled. “There’s a couple moves I can do, but the one I like to do, I definitely feel comfortable with.”
Tigers coach Mike Haviland remembers it well.
“It was a great move,” Haviland said. “It was something special and it’s still working for him.”
Like another NHL player raising the Tigers’ recruiting stock – Jaden Schwartz, who is tied for first on the team in points for the Western Conference-leading St. Louis Blues – Slavin spent two years at Colorado College before turning pro.
“You saw those glimpses. At times Jaccob could be the best player on the ice for both teams,” Haviland said. “He gets a chance and always had his first two steps separate himself, whether on a breakout or on the offensive blue line.”
Slavin, drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, wasn’t a heralded prospect. He wasn’t on the NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings of North American skaters that year, and was the 41st defenseman drafted. But he won the NCHC Rookie of the Year award in 2014 (five goals, 20 assists) and was named all-conference the next year.
Between Slavin’s two seasons, Scott Owens stepped down and Haviland came on. Slavin started slowly for his new coach, but put up five goals and 12 assists in his final 18 games as a Tiger.
“You can tell right away he was a special talent,” Haviland said. “That first half of the season, he didn’t know if he would stay or go pro. He had a lot on his mind. The second half, he just played lights-out.”
Slavin was majoring in economics. He said if he goes back to get his degree one day, he’ll probably change majors.
“I’ve entertained the idea, but for the time being, I’m focusing on hockey,” Slavin said. “I’d probably go back for something like sports science if I was to do it.”
After leaving, Haviland expected Slavin would need to develop in the American Hockey League for a while, but he played just 14 games with the Charlotte Checkers.
He signed a seven-year contract extension in July that will kick in after his rookie deal ends this summer, one that will pay him an average of $5.3 million per season.
This came after a season in which he had 34 points (five goals, 29 assists), led the Hurricanes in blocked shots, takeaways and average ice time and finished with the fourth-best plus-minus (+23) in the franchise’s 38-year history.
Slavin and his wife have settled in Raleigh, spending most of their summers there, unlike many of his teammates. He said he takes a 2-3 week trip home each offseason and visits his parents and two younger brothers in the home he grew up in.
Josiah Slavin, 18, has five points in 10 games for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL. He used to come down to see his big brother’s games frequently and Jaccob says CC is on his radar.
“I think he’s definitely interested in going there,” Jaccob said. “That would be pretty cool, to see him put on the Tigers sweater. We’ll see what happens.”
Slavin has six points and one shootout winner through 19 games this NHL season. In between games, Slavin still keeps up with the Tigers on social media, even though his entire class has graduated or moved on.
“There was a lot of change, but I had a great time the two years I was there,” Slavin said. “Haviland’s done a great job there, rebuilding that program, and (athletic director) Ken Ralph. I think they’re going the right direction, and they’re off to a great start this year. It’s awesome to see as an alum.”