ARLINGTON, Va. -- Martin Fehervary certainly looks the part of an NHL player. At 6-foot2, 200 pounds, he has the size. As he spoke after practice on Tuesday, he sported a large gash stitched close on his upper-lip lip. Most importantly, Fehervary looks the part on the ice and that is why the 19-year-old defensive prospect is poised to make his NHL debut in the Capitals season opener against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday.
“No trouble sleeping tonight,” Fehervary said not showing any sign of nervousness on the eve of his first NHL game. “Maybe, we'll see, but I've never had trouble with sleeping so should be good.”
With Michal Kempny still working his way back from a torn hamstring, the Caps were left with a hole on defense. Rather than keeping the experienced Christian Djoos on the roster, the team waived him on Monday opening the way for Fehervary.
The move was a surprise considering the team had some cap flexibility thanks to Evgeny Kuznetsov’s suspension. But perhaps it should not have been considering how much the team has praised Fehervary throughout all of camp.
“Fehervary played really well in the rookie camp,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “He looks like he’s going to be a good player.”
“Martin's been great from development camp, to Nashville to here,” Reirden said on Tuesday. “Despite the quality of play increasing every time, he's been able to really showcase his abilities to play in this league.”
Fehervary will skate on the third pair with Radko Gudas. Both players will be new to the Capitals’ lineup, but Gudas is a good match for the rookie. His presence could help prevent a physical Blues team from taking too many liberties against Fehervary. There is also a cultural connection.
“Actually, he's Czech so we can talk together,” Fehervary said. Fehervary is from Bratislava, Slovakia. The Czech Republic and Slovakia were both parts of Czechoslovakia until the country split in 1993.
“I understand a little bit more, of course, a little bit easier for me and he helps me so much and I'm really glad to have him there.”
But don’t take that to mean Fehervary is feeling nervous.
The Caps get a tough draw to start the season as they are in St. Louis to face the defending champs on the night they will raise their Cup banner. Fehervary, however, is used to high-pressure situations even as a young player. He was the captain of the U20 Slovakia national team and also played for the senior team in the World Championship in May.
“Every team's got superstars in their team,” he said. “St. Louis, of course, they've got a lot of good guys there too. I played two preseason games against them so I know a little bit how they play so little bit easy for me to know what they doing.”
The future beyond this week for Fehervary remains uncertain. When Kuznetsov returns from his suspension the team will suddenly need to shed salary to stay under the cap. When Kempny returns, that also means someone will have to come out of the lineup. As he is waiver exempt, Fehervary seems likely to head to Hershey at that point where he will command a much more significant role.
For now, however, he is exactly where he wants to be.
“I wanted to be here,” Fehervary said. “Of course. Tough to say if I expected, but I wanted to be here and I work everything to get here.”
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