Expect Some Green Faces on the Blue Line this Season

Posted September 23, 2021

Martin Fehervary time? (Caps Outsider)

After Zdeno Chara signed with the New York Islanders Saturday, the Washington Capitals have seen two defensive starters depart this offseason. Before Chara, Brenden Dillon was traded to the Winnipeg Jets in July for a pair of second-round picks. The Caps would later use one of the picks to reacquire goalie Vitek Vanecek, who was poached in the expansion draft. 

Combine Chara and Dillon and you get a monster of a man standing at 13 feet tall and clocking in at 480 pounds. What’s more is that both Chara (18:19 time on ice) and Dillon (18:57) are left-handed defensemen. Head Coach Peter Laviolette utilizes a complementary system on defense, so the team needs two bodies on the left side.

Four of the top six blueliners — John Carlson (right), Dmitry Orlov (left), Nick Jensen (right) and Justin Schultz (right) — are as good as locks heading into the season, barring any injuries. That leaves two spots to fill out the d-corps. Here are some players to keep an eye on as replacements. 

Michal Kempny

Acquired in February 2018 for a third-round pick, the 31-year-old Czech skater represents one of General Manager Brian MacLellan’s most successful moves. Kempny was vital to the cup run in 2018, scoring two goals and three assists while averaging 17:42 minutes per game. The stats might not jump off the page, but Kempny helped stabilize a unit that was unraveling. However, during last year’s preseason, Kempny tore his Achilles tendon, an injury that cost him all but two games, both of which came in the minors. According to Tarik El-Bashir at The Athletic, Kempny is moving well and should be ready for the season. If his health holds, Kempny has a good shot to suit up next to either Schultz or Jensen on the second pairing. 

Martin Fehervary 

Tapped for a couple of seasons to be the internal solution on the back end, Fehervary is one of the silkiest skaters on the team. The main knocks against the Slovak are his age (21) and lack of experience (six career NHL games). A second-round pick in 2018, Fehervary has appeared 80 times for the Caps’ AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, netting seven goals and 24 assists with a plus-25 rating. According to the website Elite Prospect, which rates top young players in the minors, Fehervary “plays his opposition hard, quickly closes in on the puck carrier, doesn’t mind using his body and actively works to break up plays.” He might be one of the fresher faces in the league, but the 21-year-old could don a red sweater come October. 

Alex Alexeyev 

Russians with the first name Alex have enjoyed some success in the nation’s capital. In all seriousness, Alexeyev, who was the team’s first-round pick in 2018, is unlikely to make the team. At 6-foot-4, 209 pounds, Alexeyev possesses an NHL-ready frame, but the 21-year-old has never suited up for the Capitals. He has spent time with the Red Deer Rebels (WHL), Salavat Yulaev (KHL) and Hershey the past four seasons. Through 70 games for the Bears, Alexeyev has logged five goals and 25 assists with a plus-19 rating. The left-handed defenseman has shown improvements during his two years in the AHL, but he’s at least one year away from legitimately challenging for a roster spot.

Trevor van Riemsdyk

Arguably the most skilled defender on this list, Van Riemsdyk is the casualty of a crowded right side of the blue line. While he’s more talented than both Fehervary and Alexeyev in a vacuum, Laviolette loves parity. The 30-year-old’s stats won’t win him any awards, three points in 20 games last season, but van Riemsdyk is quicker than Kempny and has more experience than both Fehervary and Alexeyev. He’s probably not going to play on the left side, but van Riemsdyk could challenge for the final spot on the right.