CSNWashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley will evaluate the 2012-13 performance of each player on the Caps roster. One breakdown will occur every day in alphabetical order. Today: Jack Hillen
Position: Left Defense
Ht/Wt: 5-11, 194
Penalty Minutes: 14
Average Ice Time: 17:36
Contract Status: 2 years remaining on 2-year, $1.4 million contract [$700,000 cap hit in 2013-14]
Strengths: After injuring his shoulder in the regular season opener, Hillen sat out the next 25 games, but when he returned to the lineup on March 16 in place of injured defenseman Tomas Kundratek, he never left the lineup, playing in the final 22 games and becoming a reliable fifth defenseman on a unit with Steve Oleksy. Hillen’s mobility and puck-moving ability became a surprisingly nice fit in Adam Oates’ push-the-pace system.
Weaknesses: Like almost every other Capital, Hillen’s solid regular season could not be duplicated against the Rangers in the playoffs, where he recorded one assist and was a minus-4 while averaging 16:37 of ice time a game. Because of his size Hillen has a difficult time containing power forwards like Brian Boyle and Milan Lucic and relies on his quickness to get the puck out of the defensive zone.
Memorable Moment: On the night of April 6, four days after signing a two-year contract extension with the Caps, Hillen became a long-distance father when his wife, Caitlin, gave birth to a baby boy named Knox in Minnesota, while Hillen was playing in the Caps’ 4-3 win over the Panthers in Sunrise, Fla. He netted his first goal as a Capital two games later and picked up three assists in his next three games to finish off a heck of a week. “Old school,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “It was great. We appreciate him being here because we need him. Very unselfish.”
2013-14 Expectations: Signed as a low level free agent last summer Hillen earned himself a one-way, two-year contract. He’s never recorded more than 22 points in an NHL season [with the Islanders in 2010-11] but if he can stay healthy for a full season he’s certainly capable of getting close to those number as a third-pairing defenseman.