Aside from Madison Bowey, who was taken by the Capitals in the second round of the 2013 NHL draft and is expected to turn pro and play for the AHL Hershey Bears next season, the Capitals’ cupboard on the blue line was rather thin heading into the 2015 NHL draft.
On Saturday the Capitals’ amateur scouting staff addressed those needs, trading up to take 18-year-old Swiss defensemen Jonas Siegenthaler in the second round, then drafting the Regina Pats’ defense pairing of Connor Hobbs, 18, and Colby Williams, 20, in the fifth and sixth rounds.
“All things being equal, I was really happy we had the opportunity to put a little more young defensemen into our system,” said Ross Mahoney, the Capitals’ assistant general manager and director of amateur scouting. “I was very happy with that.”
After making Russian goaltender Ilya Samsonov the first goalie taken in this year’s draft, the Caps traded their third- and fourth-round picks to take Siegenthaler, a burly, 6-foot-2, 220-pound defenseman who, as a 17-year-old, played for his home town of Zurich in the Swiss League, picking up three assists and a team-high 39 penalty minutes in 41 games.
“Playing with men [in the Swiss League] is a real advantage,” Mahoney said. “You’re playing against guys who could be 30 years old. It might be [against] good American League players that have gone back to Europe to play, or players who have played NHL games.”
Siegenthaler also represented Switzerland in the 2015 Four Nations Under-20 Tournament and the 2015 World Junior Championships, then went four rounds in the Swiss League playoffs with Zurich, where he took regular defensive shifts and killed penalties.
Mahoney compared Siegnthaler to Caps stay-at-home defenseman Brooks Orpik.
“Quite a similar style at the same age,” Mahoney said. “A two-way defenseman who’s very strong, physical.”
Mahoney, who is from the Saskatchewan capital of Regina, said he was happy to take a pair of Pats with the Caps’ fifth and sixth picks.
Hobbs, a right-handed defenseman, began last season with the Medicine Hat Tigers, but was traded to the Pats in mid-season and was paired with Williams. At 6-foot, 187 pounds, Hobbs is known for his first-pass ability and his hard shot.
As an overage junior at 20 years old, Williams was passed over in last year’s draft, and Mahoney said that may have motivated him to have such a strong season in Regina, where he recorded 11 goals, 30 assists, 95 penalty minutes and a plus-45 rating.
He also added three goals, five assists and 12 penalty minutes in nine playoff games.
“Colby took a big leap forward,” Mahoney said. “He’s a real character kid. I think when you’re 19 [now 20] like Williams you’ve been through the draft, you want to prove to all of us that you should have been drafted. Williams did that this year.”
Caps fans can get their first look at the team’s newest defensemen when they are expected to take part in the club’s development camp from July 7-11 at Capitals Kettler Iceplex.
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