Anaheim Ducks: End of Season Grades for 2020-21 Defensemen

Cam Fowler #4 of the Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Cam Fowler #4 of the Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
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Anaheim Ducks
Jani Hakanpaa #28 of the Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

Jani Hakanpaa

Raw Grade: C

Eakins Adjusted Bell-Curve Grade: A-

“Coaches award for most improved player”

Very few players have captured the Anaheim Ducks broadcaster’s hearts as much as Jani Hakanpaa appeared to do this season. Not a single game went by that Ahler’s or Hayzie weren’t pulling themselves off doing cartwheels about the commentary booth, talking about some blocked shot or otherwise innocuous play that Hakanpaa had made sometime in the past month of games.

In itself, that presents a clear improvement from a player who was quite simply a “never was.” Drafted to the NHL, yet playing his career in Europe, he wasn’t able to really crack the Anaheim Ducks lineup once he signed with them. However this past season, he went from discard pile afterthought to top-pairing defenceman, playing foil to Cam Fowler.

To be frank, Hakanpaa’s on-ice results aren’t particularly glowing. He played a physical game and more often than not, was not on the team that was holding onto the puck. In many ways, the Ducks system of turning the puck over seemingly played to his strengths, and perhaps, playing under Eakins did quite a bit for this NHL career. At least enough that the Carolina Hurricanes have elected to acquire him.

On that note, Hakanpaa was largely underwhelming in the few regular-season games in Carolina. It perhaps showed that the Eakins system suited him. Yet, since the playoffs have commenced, Hakanpaa has been a monster.

Of the 111 blueliners who have laced up skates in this season’s playoffs, Hakanpaa ranks 8th best for on-ice shot attempts against, 5th best for scoring chances against, and 7th best for expected goals against. Those are some fine results given the series he’s playing in has been so closely contested, and that he primarily begins his shifts outside of the offensive zone.

Taken together, all I can say is that while Eakins may have given Hakanpaa his chance in the NHL, moving to another team has paid dividends for Hakanpaa’s career.