Why Eric Fehr Is Washington Capitals' Most Underrated Player

Robert WoodCorrespondent IOctober 14, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 03: Eric Fehr #16 of the Washington Capitals skates against the Calgary Flames at the Verizon Center on October 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Capitals defeated the Flames 5-4 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Eric Fehr of the Washington Capitals is easy to overlook, despite his 6'4", 212-pound frame. 

This is a man who, in the ninth year of his NHL career, has scored 58 goals with 57 assists for 115 points in 311 regular-season games. The Hockey News writes that Fehr's career potential is that of a "depth scoring winger who lacks consistency." 

As a result, Fehr will never be considered the most dangerous offensive weapon on his own team. With good reason.  

However, Fehr can still be dangerous when he is on the ice. He is a former first-round pick, selected 18th overall by the Capitals in the 2003 NHL entry draft, according to Hockey-Reference.com. Among his assets, the Hockey News lists the following: 

Possesses good offensive instincts, a very big frame and a scoring touch. Knows where to go to put points on the board. Good in the slot, his soft hands are an advantage in heavy traffic. Unloads an accurate wrister. 

Although inconsistent, Fehr has the ability to flash these assets from time to time, showing the league why he was a first-round draft pick. Just ask the Boston Bruins

On March 5, 2013, Fehr split two defenders on a breakaway before somehow releasing a wrist shot that beat Tuukka Rask for the game-winning goal in overtime, all while falling to the ice. Fehr's showstopping goal was ranked No. 1 among the NHL's Top 10 Goals of 2013

At the time, some Capitals were interviewed about Fehr's game-winning goal. Mike Ribeiro even said that Fehr reminded him of Mario Lemieux from one of the many highlight-reel goals he scored during his Hall of Fame career. Pretty good for a guy who has never scored more than 21 goals in a season.  

This year, Fehr has taken on a task that lends itself to becoming even more underrated, and it has little to do with goal scoring. 

During the NHL preseason, Katie Carrera of the Washington Post wrote that Fehr would once again become a lab rat for head coach Adam Oates in one of his experiments, a common practice since Fehr rejoined the team last year: 

Since the Capitals signed Fehr at the start of last season to bolster forward depth, he’s been the subject of several Oates projects. Fehr, who historically played right wing, suited up on the left side when injuries left the lineup imbalanced and added penalty killing to his repertoire. With an abundance of right wings – Alex Ovechkin, Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward, Tom Wilson and Fehr – Oates wanted to experiment and see if the Winkler, Manitoba, native might fit at center. If it works, it would lessen the backlog of players on the right side and provide additional options if injuries occur. If not, no harm done.

So far the experiment has met with mixed results. In five games, Fehr has one goal and one assist for two points. Fehr is also dead last on the team in plus/minus rating at minus-six. 

However, Fehr has proven adept at one of the most important—and underrated—tasks a center is entrusted with: faceoffs.

Thus far, Fehr has won 32 of 57 draws for a faceoff percentage of 56.1 percent. That places him second among Capitals' faceoff leaders, a healthy 7.1 percent ahead of longtime center Nicklas Backstrom. 

What's even more impressive is that Fehr ranks 25th among the NHL's faceoff leaders. In fact, Fehr is better than Sidney Crosby, who checks in at 56.0 percent. Crosby, like Backstrom and most of the league leaders in faceoffs, has taken draws throughout his career. Fehr is just learning the craft, and he might be a natural. 

Fehr can add another skill to his ever-expanding repertoire. Just like everything else he's been asked to do, Fehr will complete this task without much fanfare. If Fehr has taught us anything so far, it's that there is never any question about whether he can get the job done.

The real question is: Will anyone notice? 


Note: All statistics updated through Oct. 13 courtesy of NHL.com unless noted otherwise.