RALEIGH, N.C. — Jonas Siegenthaler’s first NHL point came at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina, in December. He assisted on a goal by none other than Alex Ovechkin.
After he split time between the Washington Capitals and their minor league affiliate during his rookie season, Siegenthaler appears to have earned a spot back in the starting lineup moving forward, playing in Raleigh once again for his first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“It’s big. Not everyone is able to play a Stanley Cup Playoff game,” Siegenthaler said before the Capitals’ Game 4 Thursday. “Next to my debut this year, I think it’s probably one of my biggest days in life. I just have to go play my game and enjoy it.”
Coach Todd Reirden swapped Siegenthaler in for Christian Djoos on the third defensive pairing, looking to create a favorable matchup for Washington, particularly when Siegenthaler’s 6-foot-3 frame gets near the net.
Reirden, a former NHL blueliner himself, said he’ll show Siegenthaler tape of what he did right this year to prepare and motivate him.
“We’ll have just some reminder clips of what gives him success from the regular season, things he’s done well, build him up a little bit that way, and then let it go, see where it takes us,” Reirden said. “Ultimately he’s been watching the games and that’s one of the benefits to having any young players here.”
The son of a Swiss father and a Thai mother, Siegenthaler was a top player in Switzerland’s National League for three years. The Capitals made him their second-round pick in 2015, but let him stay there on loan to develop before he joined the AHL.
Now 21, Siegenthaler will have friends and family in Zurich, Switzerland, watching his playoff games, despite the six-hour time difference.
It would be asking a lot for a rookie to turn everything around for the Capitals’ defense. But Siegenthaler represents the only personnel change the team made on the blue line after giving up five goals in Monday’s Game 3.
Just from watching the first three games of the series, Siegenthaler knows what he’s getting into.
“It’s pretty physical. It’s a lot faster (than regular season hockey),” he said. “I think it’s going to be a challenge from the first minute on, for me. I’ve got to match the pace and everything so I know I’m capable to do that and I’ve just got to be ready.”
One way or another, Siegenthaler has a future with the Capitals; the organization asked him to get an apartment in the District area toward the end of his extended stay with the big-league team, a sign that they wanted him there long-term.
Now, as the Capitals fight for a first-round series victory, Siegenthaler’s role could allow him to start the next chapter of his career — one where he’s in the NHL full-time.