When Tom Wilson broke up a play on the penalty kill in the first period against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday, he wheeled around for a breakout to launch a 2-on-1. With him was rookie defenseman Martin Fehervary.
Wilson is a top-six winger playing on one of the top lines in hockey and has two 20-goals seasons under his belt. So when he passed the puck over to Fehervary, he had to have expected the puck would be coming back to him. It never did.
Instead, Fehervary called his own number.
"He honestly didn’t even look at me," Wilson said. "Once I passed it to him he was shooting it the whole way, but I love it."
Fehervary fired a shot that beat goalie Tristan Jarry to give the Capitals the 1-0 lead. That is the sign of a player playing with a lot of confidence and he should be. Now 15 games into the season, the 22-year-old Fehervary has already established himself as one of the Capitals' top defensemen.
"I thought he was one of our best players tonight," Wilson said.
"He plays like he has been playing so many years in the league," Lars Eller said, "And that confidence to jump up into the play on the PK, just like no hesitation, stuff like that, that is huge for our team.”
Fehervary now has two goals on the season -- both of which were set up by Wilson -- but that actually is not a major part of his game. Where Fehervary really shines is on defense. The goal Sunday was nice, but what made him such a force was how he was able to shut down the Penguins' offense.
Fehervary snuffed out plays along the boards, he closed the gap between himself and the puck carrier, he got his stick in shooting and passing lanes and seemed to frustrate the Penguins at every turn.
That frustration was evident when Sidney Crosby grappled with him and flung him into the boards in the third period.
"I don't even know what should I talk about it," Feheravry said of Crosby's hit. "I don't care. We'll see next game."
Soon after scoring his goal in the first period, Fehervary was playing the net-front when goalie Vitek Vanecek gave up a rebound that looked like easy pickings for Pittsburgh. Instead, Fehervary managed to use his body to protect the puck and clear it out of danger before the Penguins could generate any shots.
"I think that’s where Marty really can shine," head coach Peter Laviolette said. "He skates really well and he’s physical in the battles. That’s where I think you really notice him, in a game like tonight when it’s not one of those games that just moves up and down the ice easy. You’ve got to fight for every inch. His game really shined through.”
Coming into the season, it was not even clear if Fehervary would make the NHL squad. With a tight salary cap, Fehervary was competing with Michal Kempny, Matt Irwin and Trevor van Riemsdyk for playing time on the left side of the blue line. Early in the preseason, however, it became clear that Fehervary was ready for a significant NHL role. Laviolette matched him with John Carlson on the top pair and his confidence has been growing ever since.
"It's a tough league, definitely," Fehervary said. "We playing a lot of games and I think I'm playing a lot of minutes too so it's really hard. But I'm trying to feel every day better, every day more confident."
Adding a goal here and there doesn't hurt either.
"It was great play [by] Tom," Fehervary said. "I was thinking if I could pass it or whatever, but I see the lane. I know that I can score and I just hit it so I'm happy. Hopefully, he's happy too."
“If you are going to shoot it, that is a great shot," Wilson said. "He has got a really good shot. That is twice now that I’ve given it to him and he’s just buried it so I’m completely fine with that."