With all of the young talent the Flyers have brought into their defensive core, it can sometimes be easy to forget and overlook when a young player is disappointing. This is especially evident given the strong two-way play of Travis Sanheim, Shayne Gostisbehere’s potency, and Ivan Provorov’s history as the #1 defenseman. I would say that this is the case for Robert Hagg, but Flyers fans have been very quick to point out Hagg’s flaws, and with the exit of Andrew MacDonald from the organization, Hagg has very quickly become an organizational scapegoat. While he may not be on the level of Andrew MacDonald, the criticisms of Hagg are warranted, as he hasn’t improved past the level of “decent 3rd-pair defenseman”.
No. 21: Robert Hagg
Age: 24 (2/8/1995)
Size: 6’2”, 204
Acquired Via: 2013 NHL Draft -- Round 2, Pick 41
2018-19 League/Team/Statistics: Philadelphia (NHL) - 5 G, 15 A in 82 GP
Ranking in BSH Winter 2019 25 Under 25: 15
I think that the sheer drop off in his ranking, from 15 all the way to 21, states how disappointed we were with Hagg more than any verbal descriptor ever could. Hagg entered 2018-19 with a chip on his shoulder to prove he was a capable 3rd pair defender or better. However, both from an eye-test perspective and statistically, he simply is not above an average 3rd-pair level.
Statistics show that Hagg, as is mentioned every time he steps on the ice, likes to hit. He is noted for having recorded 258 of them last season, good for eighth place among NHL skaters. Hitting is all well and good, but has this level of physicality helped him, and therefore the team, win? No.
His willingness to be physical has maybe helped him win a permanent roster spot, but taking a closer look at this leads to more negative analysis than positive. Statistically, Hagg provided little to no positive possession when he was on the ice (43.67% score adjusted Corsi For) and did not drive goal-scoring either (44.67 score adjusted Goals For). While Hagg is more of a “defensive defenseman”, we can’t simply pin that label to him and allow it to get in the way of his lack of positive impact on the team when he is on the ice. The days of Derian Hatcher are over.
Additionally, even just watching his play, it is evident that Hagg is not a very good NHL defenseman. I couldn’t count on my fingers the amount of times I witnessed Hagg get burned on a defensive zone read. Now, this wasn’t unique to Hagg. This happened to a lot of Flyers defensemen last season. However, specifically with Hagg, we have seen him make the same mistakes over and over without any improvement or even recognition. This poor memory and situational awareness has cost him dearly, and is probably the reason why Hagg has not taken a step forward following 2017-18. Whether this is something that can be coached into Hagg has yet to be seen, but I would wager that this version of Hagg is what we can expect over the course of a career, or at least results of a similar standard.
At 24 years old, Hagg is quickly exiting 25 under 25 eligibility, and soon enough, he may not be a Flyer regular. The defense core is being shaped. Provorov, Sanheim, Gostisbehere, Niskanen, Braun, and Myers look to be the frontrunners to start on opening night. Hagg may very well fit in as the 7th defenseman, but only time will tell.
Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Summer 2019 Top 25 Under 25: