The Washington Capitals have been continuing their tradition of drafting European prospects, picking European guys with their top two picks in 2015. Next to selecting Russian goaltender Ilya Samsonov in the first round, they also picked Swiss defenceman Jonas Siegenthaler at 57th overall in the second.
The Capitals signed Siegenthaler to a three-year entry-level contract last summer. After spending his second full season in the ZSC Lions organization under Marc Crawford and exiting the playoffs in the first round, Siegenthaler has joined the Hershey Bears for their remaining games in the AHL. There have been reports out of Switzerland that Siegenthaler won’t return to the ZSC Lions for the coming season and will stay within the Washington Capitals organization.
What did the Capitals get in Siegenthaler and what can they expect from their second round pick?
Tough Sophomore Year in Zurich
Siegenthaler was one of the bright newcomers in Switzerland last season as the 17-year-old surprisingly stayed with ZSC Lions during their complete season. No one had expected him to play that much and he displayed a very solid and defensive focused, reliable game, with few mistakes. He suited up for over 60 games for ZSC and was one of the leaders at the U18 World Championship in Switzerland. All in all, Siegenthaler played in over 80 games that season with the national team and club. That may have been too many, considering that he had a tough sophomore year this season.
Congrats to our Swiss client Jonas Siegenthaler for the first game, win and point with Hershey AHL March 2016 pic.twitter.com/084JUFkPpP
— Third Eye Hockey (@ThirdEyeHockey) March 24, 2016
Siegenthaler scored a career-high eight points this season and was a lock under Crawford. However, he committed a lot more mistakes than last season and was not reliable in his own zone during games. With that being said, one of the reasons for his increased mistakes was that he had greater responsibility on the ice.
Siegenthaler is a stay-at-home defender. Do not expect anything big offensively from him. He is a safety-first guy and does not take a lot of risks and mostly goes for a safe first pass. He owns the defensive zone, with his strong defensive play and an active stick which he uses very well to interrupt passes and rushes. His understanding of the game in his own zone is great and he possesses strong positioning. He uses his strength and size to prevent forwards from scoring on rebounds.
Siegenthaler displays a good combination of skating agility and size. Given his big frame, he is not easy to knock off the puck or to be shoved around in front of the net, but I would like to see him get involved in physical battles a bit more often. He is hard to beat in corner battles and often shuts down forwards along the boards. Although there is room for improvement on the offensive side of his game, he will never become a strong two-way defender. He will always use his strong defensive zone coverage and be a shutdown defenceman.
- Defensive awareness
- Big frame
- Defensive positional game
- Physical maturity
- Reliable own-zone game
Under Construction (Improvements to Make):
- Shot power/quickness
- Skating acceleration
- Offensive zone game
Made for the AHL
Siegenthaler is a smooth skater but is not explosive. He has a good combination of agility and size, but he needs to work on the explosiveness in his first steps. The Swiss League is a dominant league in terms of speed and skating quickness, meaning that he sometimes had a hard time against quick attackers. It is also not a league where you use your body as often as in other leagues. Therefore, he is not really made for that league but is the type of player that belongs in more physical leagues such as the AHL. I therefore like that he has decided to join the Hershey Bears this year to finish his season there.
He seems perfectly made for the AHL and he has a chance to improve in the physical department, where I still some room for improvement. Although he brings a big frame and strong physical skills to the table, he never really worked on this aspect of his game in the Swiss League, but will now have the chance to do so in the much more physical AHL. He will get better in all aspects of the game and Hershey will be the right place for him to develop.
Long term, Siegenthaler has the potential to become a reliable stay-at-home defender also at the NHL-level, but will need at least 1-2 years in the AHL before making it to the show. Although he was selected in the second round, Siegenthaler will probably never be more than a shutdown defender. I don’t think that his offensive skills are good enough to play any other role than the one of a pure defensive-minded defender. Last year, when he played as a leader at the U18 World Championships, he took on a more offensive role but struggled to do so, especially on the powerplay where he failed to quarterback the first unit.
However, the Zurich-born son of a Swiss father and a Thai mother does have the defensive understanding of the game to make it to the NHL.
He still has some family in Thailand where he sends his game videos…maybe soon he will be able to send some of his NHL videos to his relatives as well.