WASHINGTON, D.C. — A couple of years can make a major difference, and that appears to be the case for Washington Capitals defenseman Martin Fehervary. He wears the same smile and has the same goals in mind, yet by looking at him, it’s easy to see he’s a different person.
The 22-year-old is bigger, having put on a lot of muscle and strength in the offseason. He explained that heading into 2021-22, he feels “way different” than he has in the past.
“I’m still same excited, you know? Just looking forward to play another game and hopefully, I’ll stay here all season,” Fehervary said. “I work all my life for this so hard and I would appreciate it. I’m just trying to do my best every day here and enjoy it.”
This is Fehervary’s second time making the Capitals opening night roster, last accomplishing the feat in 2019. He got six games that year up with the big club, dishing an assist, 14 hits, two blocks, two giveaways, two takeaways and a +/- of minus-2. Since going back to Hershey, he’s been working on fine-tuning his game, and it’s paid off big time.
In 80 games over the last two seasons with Hershey, Fehervary has racked up seven goals and 38 points. He also improved his overall defensive game, sacrificing the body, throwing his weight around, winning puck battles and being a major asset on the penalty kill.
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Fehervary said that time with the Bears made a major difference not just in his game, but in his personal growth as well.
“I’m two, three years older and I feel way more experience,” Fehervary explained. “I know how the things go and I played a lot of minutes in the minors in AHL, you know in Hershey, and I feel ready and know I can be here.
“You know that confidence helped a lot on the ice. You know with those little things you kind of learn… when you’re older, and you know where you should be and how you should do it,” Fehervary added. “So obviously I feel way, way more ready than three years ago.”
The Slovak defenseman stood out at training camp, showcasing smooth-skating, solid two-way play and puck-moving ability. In four exhibition games, he had an assist, six shots, seven hits and two blocks. The 6-2, 199-pound blueliner is more confident in his overall game, and his strength, speed and size are major assets for Washington.
His performance earned him a spot on the top pairing alongside John Carlson. Fehervary has been soaking in as much as he can from No. 74, who he complements well and continues to learn from, especially when it comes to joining the rush and getting involved on the forecheck.
“He’s offensively great, so I’m trying to do that offensive game too you know? Like skating a lot, play defense a lot, be sure in defensive zone and then we can create something in offense,” Fehervary said. “Like I know that I can play offensive game style and then I’ll just try to go create some offense with him… just try to you know, pass to him and he’ll create something.”
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He won a roster spot over the likes of Michal Kempny, who’s still working to get his game back up to speed for Washington following multiple injuries to his left leg and two major surgeries.
Right now, Fehervary’s staying in a hotel but is more than happy living the suite life as he tries to secure a permanent stay up in the District.
“I’ve been a lot of nights there [in the hotel], but I mean, I don’t mind it, you know? I’m in NHL and I’m so happy for it and glad and thankful for this,” Fehervary said. “So I mean, whatever, I’m trying to do my best and keep the spot here… Definitely [excited to potentially find an apartment] but like I said, I really don’t care right now. I’m focused on my game. I’m trying to do my best and hopefully, I’ll stay all year.”
Fehervary admitted that securing a full-time Capitals gig can lead to added pressure. Still, he’s trying not to fixate as much on things out of his control. So, off the ice, he takes the time to unwind by hanging out with friends, watching videos — and fishing for carp. He has yet to form a fishing club in the locker room (he wants to take Alex Ovechkin fishing one day), but he said being in nature helps take his mind off things and hopes to get some gear soon.
“I’m working on my mental side and just a little bit of not that focus on hockey,” Fehervary said. “I like the fishing… so I’m when I’m off the ice, off the rink, I try to focus on different things. But of course, pressure was there [through camp]… hopefully I will have a time [to fish] but the first is to play hockey here.”