As the Capitals prepare for training camp to open, one position in which they are particularly thin is the left side of the defense. With no Brenden Dillon or Zdeno Chara, someone will have to step up to take on a significant role on defense. Prospect Martin Fehervary has been pegged as the most likely candidate as the team's most NHL-ready defenseman.
But, up until Thursday, all the talk about Fehervary earning an NHL role this season is just that, talk. When training camp begins, he will have to show that he's ready.
Scott Allen served as an assistant coach in the AHL-affiliate Hershey for two years before being promoted to head coach this year. That gave him a chance to coach Fehervary and, according to Allen, he has all the tools to make it to the next level.
"He's a very strong kid, first and foremost," Allen said. "He's an excellent skater. Another guy that has a fair amount of confidence in his game and his abilities."
Fehervary, 21, has been knocking on the door of the Caps roster for a while now and has appeared in six NHL games. He was expected to have a full-time role with the team last year until the surprise signing of Chara.
But Allen stressed that Fehervary's inability to break into the league yet has more to do with his position than Fehervary's skillset or development.
"I truly believe, me personally, the toughest position to break into the National Hockey League and stay in the NHL is as a defenseman," Allen said.
The task now for Fehervary is to show that he is not only ready to break in, but maintain a role through the season.
The Caps are in need of a left defenseman and the salary cap dictates that they need one for cheap. Fehervary is an NHL-caliber player who plays left defense and carries a cap hit of less than $792,000. As well as he may seem to fit on paper, however, he still has to prove that he's ready on the ice.
"I expect some growing pains, but it's going to be up to him," Allen said. "It's going to be up to him to have a strong camp and prove that he's not only capable of playing in the NHL, but staying in the NHL and that's when the whole consistency factor comes in."