Currently sitting 12 points out of a playoff spot with only 16 games left in the season, the playoffs are looking like an unattainable dream for the Bears. However, through a somewhat disappointing season that has seen the team lose several key players early on, there is a silver lining: without losing those key players, they would not have had a chance to see their new players actually get playing time. These young players who stepped into big shoes at the beginning of the 2017-18 season are the future of the Bears and Capitals organization, so it is important that the organization sees that they stepped up and developed their games throughout the year. Three rookie blue-liners on the team did just that.
Jonas Siegenthaler, the 20-year-old from Switzerland has stepped up this year in his first full season with the Bears. After playing a mere seven games for the team last year, Jonas came into this season having a little taste of AHL hockey, and was able to jump into his starting role with little need for a learning curve. Through 59 games this season, Jonas has record three goals and six assists for a total of nine points. Even though these numbers do not jump off the screen at you, they don’t paint the full picture of his play. Playing roughly 15 minutes a game, Jonas is a versatile defenseman, playing both penalty kill and powerplay time, as well as even strength hockey. At only 20 years old, Siegenthaler is just one example of the bright future on the back end for the Bears.
Drafted in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Lucas Johansen made his professional hockey debut this season, and has drawn the attention of fans and other teams alike. This 20-year-old Vancouver native was known as a puck-moving defenseman and posted two 40-point seasons in his career in juniors. Johansen had a rough start to the season, as he was unable to find the net very often. As the season progressed, however, so did he. In 58 games this season, Jonhansen has recorded six goals and 16 assists, for a total of 22 points. Johansen did this all while playing sheltered minutes of just roughly 12 minutes per game, with limited powerplay time. At only 20 years old, Johansen looks more than comfortable with the minutes he plays and, with the right development, seems to have the potential for a top pairing defenseman on this Bears team.
Many fifth round picks don’t even get to sniff professional hockey, but Connor Hobbs is not your everyday fifth round pick. Coming off a stunning 85-point season in his last year with the Regina Pats, Connor Hobbs made his professional debut for the Bears earlier this season at just 21 years old. Hobbs shows much offensive talent, as his 85-point season might indicate, and has recorded two goals and nine assists, totaling 11 points, in just 36 games played this season. Despite missing seven weeks and only playing roughly 11 minutes per night, Hobbs is adjusting to professional hockey quite smoothly. Playing on the first powerplay unit, Hobbs has the ability to show his puck-handling skills and his bomb from the blue line. Hopefully, if he stays healthy, Hobbs will have the opportunity to take on a bigger role with the Bears in the future.
Although no players, fans, or management enjoy being far out of the playoff picture, fans can take solace in the fact that they have three promising, skilled rookie defensemen all under the age of 22. With the help and great coaching from head coach Troy Mann, all three of these blue liners should be able to take on bigger roles next season, and help lead the Bears back to the Calder Cup Playoffs.
*All statistics taken from eliteprospects.com and prospect-stats.com
Noah is a lifelong Flyers fan who loves the sport of hockey almost as much as the orange and black. He is currently studying journalism and media studies at West Chester University.