The Washington Capitals' 2021-22 season has ended following the first-round Stanley Cup playoff exit against the Florida Panthers. However, at least two players won't put their skates away for the summer quite yet.
Washington general manager Brian MacLellan announced defensemen Martin Fehervary (Slovakia) and Michal Kempny (Czechia), will join their respective national teams at the 2022 IIHF World Championship in Finland.
Fehervary is coming off a strong rookie season with the Capitals, which saw the 22-year-old play in 79 games, score eight goals and record nine assists. Fehervary also led the Capitals in hits with 251 and ranked sixth in the NHL in blocked shots among rookies with 117.
Like most first-year NHLers, though, it took some time for Fehervary to get comfortable. But when he did, head coach Peter Laviolette noted the changes in the defenseman’s game. He gradually became a bigger part of the Capitals' offensive attack while skating on the top pair with teammate John Carlson.
“Marty came in and was a really strong player for us. His skating, his physicality and his defense, his ability to play with John," Laviolette said. "And you’ve got to give John a lot of credit too because he was playing with a rookie, and he communicated and really took Marty under his wing and helped him through the process of being in his first year."
This will be Fehervary’s third time representing Slovakia at the World Championships, having played in the 2018 and 2019 editions of the competition. Slovakia is off to a 1-1 start at Worlds and plays Canada on Monday.
“Together, they were a really good pair," Laviolette said. "Marty, I thought as the season moved on, you started to see him jump into the offense a little bit more and get involved off the rush. He had some real pretty goals. The future’s really bright for him. After seeing him play the entire year, he’s going to be a good player for a long time.”
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Meanwhile, Kempny is heading to represent Czechia. The 31-year-old will attempt to use the World Championship to represent his country and also show he’s healthy. The veteran defenseman will be a free agent this summer.
Kempny has had injury concerns the past couple of years. He tore his hamstring during a freak fall in a game vs. Tampa Bay in March 2019, which led him to miss the playoffs that year. He did return to play 58 games in the COVID-19 shortened 2019-20 regular season and another five in the NHL's playoff bubble in Toronto before Washington was eliminated in the first round.
But while training at home in Czechia for the 2020-21 season, Kempny tore an Achilles tendon and missed all of the 2020-21 season. He spent last year's shortened season recovering and did return to play two games for the AHL's Hershey Bears.
Kempny returned to the NHL this past season and appeared in 30 games for the Caps with six points, but his final game was March 28 against the Carolina Hurricanes and he did not participate in the playoffs.
The Capitals defenseman hopes to convince MacLellan -- or another NHL general manager -- that his injuries are behind him and he can still contribute in a depth role on the blueline. That starts at the World Championships. Czechia is off to a 1-1 start after losing to Sweden 4-2 on Sunday. They play Austria on Tuesday.