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Is Eric Fehr a Bust?

Posted December 28, 2013

The 2003 NHL Entry Draft class is considered one of the most talented in NHL History. At the top of the draft were players that have become NHL All-Stars like Fleury, Staal, Vanek, Suter, Phaneuf, and Parise. Then one selection after Zach Parise, the Capitals selected Eric Fehr at #18. Since he was drafted one year before Ovechkin, it occurred to us that many Capitals fans may not be aware of Fehr’s history.

Fehr was selected before Getzlaf (#19), Burns (#20), Kesler (#23), Richards (#24), Perry (#28), Eriksson (#33), Bergeron (#45), Weber (#49), Backes (#62), and Howard (#64). Each of those players have accomplished more in their NHL careers than Eric Fehr. So does that make him a bust?

Last night, Fehr scored the game winning goal in his 300th game with the Washington Capitals. It was his 61st goal with the Caps, while he only scored 2 with Winnipeg in 35 games. Our rough math shows that is about 1 goal every 5 games in Washington over parts of eight seasons. That is hardly the goal scoring production expected of Eric when he was selected.

After being drafted, Fehr proceeded to score 50 goals in 71 games for the Brandon Wheat Kings in 2003-04, and 59 goals in 71 games during the 2004-05 season. In 2005-06 he made the transition to the Pros and scored 25 goals for Hershey in 70 games, but was held scoreless over his 11 game tryout in Washington.

Then injuries derailed Fehr’s promising career. An extended battle with a herniated disc and recurring shoulder problems have plagued Eric since 2007. He has never played more than 69 games in a season since, also partially due to some stints as a healthy scratch. It has been a long road for Fehr to reach his 300th game with the Capitals.

Ten full seasons since that 2003 NHL Draft, it’s interesting (and depressing) to compare Fehr to two Ducks who were selected after him in the first round. It’s tough to look at Eric Fehr compared to Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry at the bottom of this chart and not consider him a bust. However if you include some players selected before Eric in the first round, you realize what a bust really looks like. Hugh Jessiman is a definite bust.

#4Nikolay Zherdev4211151462610.62
#10Andrei Kostitsyn3981031192220.56
#12Hugh Jessiman20000
#15Robert Nilsson25237811180.47
#16Steve Bernier503881001880.37
#18Eric Fehr33563661290.39
#19Ryan Getzlaf5921713945650.95
#28Corey Perry6132422645060.83

Of those five players listed above Fehr on that chart, only Bernier is still playing in the NHL right now. Arguably more was expected of players like Zherdev and Kostitsyn, so despite scoring more points per game in more games than Fehr, they might be considered bigger misses. But is it fair to only compare players to their draft class, or would it make more sense to compare him to other players selected at #18 overall? Those names two years prior and two years past Fehr’s draft would include unknowns like Jens Karlsson, Denis Grebeshkov, Kyle Chipchura and Ryan Parent. All of a sudden, Eric Fehr doesn’t look so bad, he was just part of an amazing draft class.

Fehr’s career has certainly been a disappointment, but 300 games with one NHL team is nothing to scoff at. Most of that time has been served in the bottom six, and Power Play minutes have not been plentiful in his NHL career. Fehr has shown flashes of brilliance with clutch scoring and highlight reel goals. But those highlights have been less plentiful than originally expected. Did the injuries sap some of his skill, or was he never really given the opportunity to become that top line wing at the NHL level? What do you think, is Eric Fehr a bust… or is the best yet to come?

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