Samsonov, Siegenthaler showing Caps still have a bright future

Chris Lingebach
November 15, 2019 - 7:45 pm
Samsonov, Siegenthaler showing Caps have a bright future

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Capitals are the hottest team in hockey right now, a welcomed sight but no sincere surprise.

With a Stanley Cup championship not far in the rearview, the Caps are a franchise with a winning tradition who have won at the highest level. Whatever 'window to win' they've had for the last decade, they've managed to drive a wedge through and jostle it back open again and again.

A team's longevity – how many years it can continue to sustain winning – only goes as far as its youth movement, and fans will find comfort in knowing the Caps have a pair of 22-year-olds contributing in big ways this season.

Defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler, a second-round pick in 2015, has been a plus-six defender and is coming off his first-career goal, a second-period wrister in last week's 5-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights.

John Carlson, Washington's newly minted alternate captain and 'the guy' in the defensive end this year, reflected on the Caps' youth movement during his weekly appearance with Chad Dukes, presented by The Purple Heart.

"It's awesome," he said seeing Siegenthaler score his first goal. "I think he's a great player. I think he's a very talented, young player that can get a lot better, and I think from the beginning of this season, he came in and you could tell that he was a lot more confident, a lot more ready to make a push."

"It's good to see him finally get rewarded," he added. "Because this year, he's been playing awesome hockey. You root for guys like him to battle his way through, get a good spot on the team and he's starting to flourish."

Another young gun who's been asked to do a lot is rookie goaltender Ilya Samsonov, who's now made six starts in the Capitals' first 20 games. Samsonov, 22, has performed admirably in his limited time filling in for Braden Holtby, going 5-1 with a 2.45 goals against average. It's comforting to know the Caps have both youth and talent on their side in Samsonov, whom they drafted one round before Siegenthaler in 2015.

As Samsonov continues to develop at the NHL level, Washington may come closer and closer to answering the question of whether he can replace Holtby, whose contract is up after this season.

"Obviously he's talented and he's gonna be a great player in this league," Carlson said. "There's obviously differences between each goalie that I've ever played with, and Holtby probably plays the puck, I would say, the best. So anyone other than him, I think you're just a little more aware, a little more chatter from the defensive end to make sure that we're helping him out in knowing where the puck needs to go at a specific time.

"But we got all the confidence in the world in him. I think he's finally acclimated to how things go, the goalie routine, and what's expected of the goalies for this team, and I think he's playing really good hockey right now."