Sunday, June 12, 2022

Washington Capitals: 2021-2022 By the Tens -- Defensemen: Martin Fehervary

Martin Fehervary

“Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.”
― Samuel Johnson

The big…defenseman can skate, play physical, produce offense, and has a hard shot.” 

 "[He] is an immensely talented defenseman and incredibly mature. He has both supreme confidence in his abilities and the self-awareness to know he is not a finished product.” 

He has a real calmness to his game in how he moves the puck. It’s that poise with the puck and his IQ that leads me to think he has a chance to be a top-four defenseman…” 

Sounds like a defenseman the Washington Capitals might take as their first pick in the 2018 Entry Draft.  The thing is, the Caps did take a defenseman with their first pick in that draft, but with the 31st overall pick they selected Alex Alexeyev, not Martin Fehervary, who was taken with the Caps’ second pick in that draft, in the second round (46th overall) after 20 other defensemen had been selected.  But while Alexeyev dealt with some setbacks that affected his development timeline, Fehervary made steady progress to become a full-time player and the team leader in games played in 2021-2022.  He likely stands as the most likely under-25 player to make an impact in the short term for the Capitals.

Fearless’ Take… Fehervary acquitted himself quite well among his fellow rookie defensemen in the NHL this season.  Third in games played (79), first in goals (eight), tied for 11th in assists (nine), tied for sixth in points (17), tied for second in plus-minus rating (plus-15), fourth in shots on goal (96), first in credited hits (251), sixth in blocked shots (117), tied for tenth in takeaways (14), ninth in ice time per game (19:39; minimum: 20 games), fifth in shorthanded ice time per game (1:47; minimum: 20 games).  And ice time didn’t seem to be much of a problem.  The Caps were 21-8-2 when he skated at least 20 minutes.  And, the Caps did not lose a game in regulation in which he scored a goal (7-0-1).

Cheerless’ Take… While Feherary’s overall numbers are pretty good, especially when compared to other rookie defensemen, dig deeper, and there were consistency issues on the offensive side of the puck. In his first 16 games, he was 2-3-5, plus-2.  That was followed by a 27-game stretch over which he mustered one point (a goal), although he was a plus-14.  Then a three-game points streak followed by a 20-game streak going 2-1-3, minus-5.  He finished the season 2-3-5, plus-2, over his last 13 games.  At the other end, in 30 games from February 24th to the end of the regular season, he was on ice for 31 goals at even strength.  Only his frequent partner, John Carlson, was on for more (32), and Fehervary’s minus-5 goal differential at even strength was tied for worst among defenseman over that run (with Trevor van Riemsdyk).

Odd Fehervary Fact… Only John Carlson and Gord Lane appeared in more games as a rookie (82 and 80, respectively) than did Fehervary (79, tied with Kevin Hatcher).

Odd Fehervary Fact II… In one-plus seasons in the NHL, Fehervary already ranks tenth in career goals scored by a Slovakian defenseman (eight, tied with former Capital Ivan Majesky and Richard Lintner), 14th in points (18), sixth in plus-minus rating (plus-13), and seventh in ice time per game (19:24).

Odd Fehervary Fact III… Fehervary and Lane are the only two rookie defensemen in Caps history to record two shorthanded points in their rookie season.  Fehervary is the only one to do it while scoring a shorthanded goal.

Game to Remember… October 23rd vs. Calgary.  The Caps took the ice for their fifth game of the season as a team already exhibiting something of a split personality.  They were 3-0-1 in their first four games, scoring 15 goals in their three wins and only one in an overtime loss to Tampa Bay.  They would face a Calgary Flames team that showed game to game improvement in their scoring defense, allowing five goals in a 5-2 loss to Edmonton in their season opener, three in a 3-2 overtime loss to Anaheim, and then a clean sheet in a 3-0 shutout of Detroit before heading to Washington.

Calgary went out to a 3-0 lead in the first 20 minutes, but the Caps got one back less than three minutes into the second period when Evgeny Kuznetsov scored shorthanded.  The Caps got closer five minutes later.  Kuznetsov took the puck off a Calgary stick and slid it ahead to Alex Ovechkin exiting the defensive zone.  Ovechkin fed Fehervary to his right, and Fehervary relayed it ahead to Tom Wilson heading down the right wing.  Wilson skated into the offensive zone, and from the right wing wall left the puck for Fehervary trailing the play.  Seeing an open lane, Fehervary angled into the right wing circle and from the faceoff dot snapped a shot that beat goalie Dan Vladar past the blocker on the far side, his first NHL goal getting the Caps within a goal.  Ovechkin tied the game late in the second period, and after a scoreless third period, the teams went to overtime.  There, Calgary earned the extra standings point on an Elias Lindholm goal, but the Caps did manage a comeback from an early hole to earn a point, thanks in part to Fehervary’s first NHL goal.

Game to Forget… December 10th vs. Pittsburgh.  There are some games that are worthy of forgetting in a figurative sense, but sometimes there are those that might be forgotten in a literal sense.  Such might have been the case for Martin Fehervary in a game against the Penguins in December.  Pittsburgh had a 2-0 lead as the game was reaching the mid-way point when the Caps applied pressure in the Penguins’ end.  Evgeny Kuznetsov, camped at the right point, tried to feed the puck across to Fehervary at the left point, but the pass was muffled by the stick of Teddy Blueger. Fehervary stepped forward to corral the puck, and it was just enough time for Brock McGinn to step up and level Fehervary with a head shot as Fehervary was sending the puck ahead to T.J. Oshie.  The hit, which was not penalized, ended Fehervary’s evening 9:17 into the period.  He did come back the following game and scored a goal in the Caps’ 3-2 Gimmick win over Buffalo.

Postseason… The best that might be said for Fehervary’s postseason is that he got six games worth of experience under his belt.  Nevertheless, 0-0-0, minus-7, on ice for 11 even strength goals against (tied with John Carlson for most on the team), a minus-7 goal differential at evens (worst on the team).  It was not a postseason for the scrapbook.

Looking Ahead… Fehervary was the second-youngest defenseman to skate for the Caps this season (Alex Alexeyev, six weeks younger, skated in one game).  He might be considered, at least for the moment, a defenseman who will figure prominently in the Caps’ personnel thinking as the team moves to mid-decade, and defensemen such as John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, and Nick Jensen (assuming all are still with the club) reach their mid-30’s.  If he is to become a cornerstone on defense, his consistency and attention to detail in his own end will need some improvement.

In the End…

Fehervary seemed to hit a wall at around the 50-game mark.  This should not have been a total surprise, the 62 games he played in 2019-2020, split between Hershey (56 games) and Washington (six games), being the only time in his career – amateur or professional – he topped 50 games played in a season.  But what lingers from this season is a comment made by Capitals Assistant General Manager Ross Mahoney about Fehervary’s approach:

“I can’t recall watching a game where I thought Martin’s effort wasn’t where it should be — it was always unbelievable.” 

Effort plus experience could make for a solid player who had a very good rookie season upon which to build.

Grade: B