In our latest review of the Washington Capitals‘ 2022-23 season performance for defensemen, we’ll be taking a look at Martin Fehervary’s contributions on the ice.
Fehervary was drafted in the second round (46th overall) in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Fehervary spent the 2018-19 season in the SHL with HV71 Jonkoping, then made his way to North America for the 2019-20 season. Fehervary spent most of that season with the Hershey Bears, but got his first taste of NHL action, appearing in six games with the Capitals. Fehervary then spent the entire 2020-21 season in Hershey.
Fehervary became an NHL regular on the Caps blueline in the 2021-22 season, appearing in 79 games. He had a bit more of an injury-marred 2022-23 campaign, appearing in 67 games this past season.
Now, Fehervary is a restricted free agent after his entry-level contract with the Capitals expired at the end of this past season.
The statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, Evolving Hockey, Hockey Reference, HockeyDB, and HockeyViz. Contract and transaction information are courtesy of CapFriendly. If you’d like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our NHL Analytics Glossary.
PERFORMANCE DURING FIVE-ON-FIVE PLAY
We’ll start our evaluation of Fehervary’s play in the most important game situation: five-on-five play. Here’s a breakdown of his performance in key metrics this season:
There’s certainly not a lot to celebrate here. Fehervary definitely had his struggles this season, but so did the entire Caps roster. Obviously, team quality has a large impact on underlying metrics, so Fehervary didn’t really post exemplary numbers with the talent around him. On top of that, he received some tough deployment duties, only getting offensive zone starts 35.4% of the time.
In terms of offensive output, Fehervary contributed six goals and 10 assists for 16 points in 67 games played this season. He posted just one fewer point than the 2021-22 season in 12 fewer games played.
To add a bit of context behind his season-long performance, let’s take a look at Fehervary’s performance in possession and shot generation/suppression metrics by month this season:
Overall, there’s two real high points for Fehervary this season: November and February. Also, December looks worse than it probably would have looked if he had appeared in more than three games that month.
Outside of the slow start in October, the small sample size in December, and the meaningless games played in April, Fehervary’s possession and shot generation/suppression metrics are relatively consistent. I’m not putting a ton of stock into anyone’s performance in April since the Caps were out of the playoff race with not much to play for.
I mentioned previously that December was a really small sample size, and you can tell by the fact that Fehervary carried a 100 GF% in those three games that month. The issue here is that outside of October, the small sample size in December, and in April, Fehervary consistently had his GF% trail behind his xGF%. I’ve mentioned several times in the past that this is an issue that the Capitals suffered through at the team level this season, but this is a key issue that the Capitals need to solve for this off-season through the restructuring of the roster.
Outside of severely outpacing his xGF/60 rate in October and December, Fehervary’s actual output versus expected were relatively close together (except for February). Obviously, February was really the turning point in the direction of the team this season, so that’s not necessarily surprising.
Here’s the opposite side of the coin, where we’ll compare Fehervary’s goals against per sixty (GA/60) versus expected goals against per sixty (xGA/60):
The first two months of the season were positive, with GA/60 falling below xGA/60. These metrics are definitely affected by goaltending performance, so that’s a possible variable here. In October, Fehervary’s five-on-five on ice save percentage was .923%, and in November, his on ice save percentage was .926%.
When we get into January, his on-ice save percentage was .889. February was .855. This points to a bit more of a streak of bad luck, due to the Caps owning 51.27% of high-danger chances (HDCF%) and 50% of high-danger goals for (HDGF%) through January and February combined. A large part of that was a bit of a downturn in performance by goaltenders that month. Charlie Lindgren posted a .864 save percentage and Darcy Kuemper posted a .900 save percentage. Obviously, it’s not all on the goaltenders there.
Here’s a look at the top four-most utilized pairings for Fehervary this past season:
The majority of Fehervary’s deployments this season were on a pairing with Nick Jensen during five-on-five play. While the metrics above are nothing to scream in happiness about, the fact that those two were able to post a 49.03 xGF% while only getting 32.18% of offensive zone starts is impressive.
What’s interesting to me is that there’s such a drop in performance on a pairing with John Carlson. In the past, Fehervary has mostly been utilized in a pairing with Carlson, so you’d figure there would be a bit more chemistry there. With their expected goals differential (the xG Diff in the chart), this means that they’re a bit better offensively than they are defensively. There’s really no world where a pairing with John Carlson on it should be getting only 39.68% of their zone starts in the offensive zone. That’s just not utilizing a Carlson pairing very well.
Interestingly enough, Fehervary posted his best xG Diff on a pairing with Matt Irwin, who had his struggles all season. I think we’re seeing where Fehervary can shine with a bit more of a defensively focused defenseman on his pairing. Fehervary’s offensive skills have grown over the past two seasons, and he’s definitely more of a offensively leaning two-way defenseman at this point in time.
PLAYER VALUE METRICS
We can likely just disregard his 2019-20 performance, since it was only six games of action at the NHL level. That sample size is so small that it’s really difficult to glean his actual level of performance that year.
After a sub-replacement level performance last season in both GAR and xGAR, Fehervary improved in both metrics this past season. That’s a sign of improvement for sure, mainly driven by his vast improvement in defensive GAR. In 2021-22, his defensive GAR was -4.7. This season, it’s 3.6.
Overall, from the underlying metrics standpoint, we could probably say that Fehervary went through a bit of a sophomore slump, but his player value metrics indicate otherwise. It’s starting to appear more like Fehervary’s struggles were more a result of the struggling team around him more than a degradation in quality of play on Fehervary’s part.
Here’s Fehervary’s Rate-Adjusted Plus Minus, which is used to compare a player’s performance in key metrics at a rate of sixty minutes of play to the league average:
Obviously, we weren’t going to see great results here since they’re based off of the underlying statistics we covered earlier in the post. The bright side is his xGA/60 tracking above league average, meaning that he’s playing well defensively and not giving up a bevy of high quality scoring chances against.
Here’s Fehervary’s individual isolated impact when he’s on the ice via HockeyViz:
The -9% impact on even-strength offense is actually not very surprising here. The Capitals were actually relatively effective in generating xGF this season (15th in the NHL in xGF), but struggled in actually converting those chances (17th in the NHL in GF). On top of that, with getting a higher share of non-offensive zone starts, it’s likely that Fehervary was not on the ice with the players who were more effective offensively.
The -7% impact on even-strength defense is actually a positive mark. That means that the Caps’ xGA/60 decreases by 7% when Fehervary is on the ice. He’s effective in shutting down the high danger areas right in front of the net, and that’s likely occurring against opponents’ top offensive talents with Fehervary’s difficult deployment rate.
2023-24 SEASON FORECAST
The most important thing for Fehervary this off-season is seeing what his next contract looks like. We saw fellow restricted free agent Alex Alexeyev get a two year bridge contract on Monday, and it’s fair to expect something in the similar term range for Fehervary to keep his cap hit down. On the other hand, if you expect Fehervary to be a fixture on your blue line for the foreseeable future, would it make more sense to lock him up to a longer term contract?
With how the Capitals are trying to revamp the roster, they need to be really careful about the cap space they have when trying to add top six quality forwards. Obviously, there are some contracts they could move out this off-season to create a bit more space, but it might be better to give Fehervary a bridge contract and re-evaluate his contract from there.
Overall, I’d expect to see Fehervary in the top four defensive group next season, barring a potential addition of another top four defenseman this off-season. If the Caps can add another defenseman on the left side, you can potentially have a player of Fehervary’s caliber playing on the third pairing, which would add a lot of depth to the blue line.
By Justin Trudel
PREVIOUS BLUELINE REVIEWS
Rasmus Sandin: 2022-23 Washington Capitals Season Review
Alexander Alexeyev: 2022-23 Washington Capitals Season Review
Trevor van Riemsdyk: 2022-23 Washington Capitals Season Review
Nick Jensen: 2022-23 Washington Capitals Season Review