With injuries on the back-end piling up, The Vancouver Canucks have opted to recall 22-year-old, right-side defender, Jalen Chatfield.
Chatfield has been playing tremendous hockey for the Utica Comets and has been their best defenceman. When in the line-up he’s been deployed on the teams top pairing with Olli Juolevi. The combo has displayed instant chemistry as their playing styles compliment each other almost perfectly.
I recently wrote about what Canucks fans can expect from Juolevi here, but what does Jalen Chatfield have in his tool-box? Here’s a brief summary of what to expect from the recent call-up if he draws into the lineup.
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As you can see on the chart, Chatfield has been incredibly efficient moving the puck. Not only is he leading the Comets with a controlled exit rate of 52.73%, but he also has the lowest direct fail rate of 7.27%. This is an exceptionally low number, as he’s only iced or turned the puck over in the defensive zone eight times on 110 touches. To give that number some context, consider Erik Gudbranson had seven defensive zone fails in the first two periods alone last night versus Chicago on 16 touches. Furthermore, Chatfield has the teams second lowest team fail rate at 4.55%, which means he’s rarely putting his teammates in bad positions with the puck in when trying to exit the zone.
With recent findings showing that controlled exits are a better predictor of a defender’s goals-for ratio than Corsi, Chatfield’s puck-moving ability gives fans a legitimate reason to be excited about his game.
Here’s a quick look at some of Chatfield’s work this season, pretty slick!
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This gif sums up what you can expect from Chatfield. He breaks up a play in the neutral zone, utilizes his plus skating ability to gain possession of the puck, and makes a quick pass, the legwork is done and now the team is transitioning to offence.
 
Chatfield weaponizes his speed while defending aggressively in the neutral zone which creates plenty of turnovers while preventing opponents from gaining entry to the attacking zone. He’s been breaking up plays in the neutral zone consistently as you can see by his team-leading rate of 20.37%. Pair this with his team-best controlled entries against rate of 33.33%, and you have yourself an elite AHL neutral zone defender.
These numbers are a proven predictor of a defender’s future goals against. Another reason to be excited about Chatfield!
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Chatfield isn’t going to wow you with his offensive vision or creativity. He keeps it simple offensively, his job is to gain possession of the puck and move it to the forwards which he’s been very good at it this year.
In my opinion, Chatfield’s the most NHL ready defender on the Comets roster and has zipped by Alex Biega on the organization’s depth chart of right-side blue-liners. Additionally, he may be a better option than the struggling Erik Gudbranson right now. Will he get an opportunity to show it? I hope so!
If Chatfield can continue to grow and carry over the success he’s having in the AHL this year, he has a shot at becoming a modern, speedy, defensive-minded blue-liner who can move the puck. If he can continue to progress, this right-handed defenceman is found gold!
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