KOSICE, Slovakia — Washington Capitals prospect and Svolak national Martin Fehervary needs not a reminder to pay attention.
Edmonton Oilers defenceman Andrej Sekera — a veteran of parts of 13 NHL seasons — is around.
Fehervary is already doing his best to soak up any experience he can from the Oilers defenseman.
There’s no one, after all, better to learn from if Fehervary wants to have a future in the National Hockey League down the road.
“He’s a really good leader and it’s been a great experience for me to have him in the locker room,” said Fehervary, teammates with Sekera at the 2019 IIHF World Championship. “I just try to watch him play. In the locker room, too, he’s really professional.”
“It’s really great for me to look up to someone that’s a player like he is.”
“I’ve been talking with him a lot about how it is in the NHL or what he’s doing. He’s actually really, really interesting. He’s a leader. He’s really professional. I ask him a lot of stuff about hockey, and other than hockey too.”
“He’s a great friend and great, great hockey player.”
Sekera, though, knows his fellow rearguard is well on his way.
Fehervary is well schooled, suggested the seasoned blueliner.
“He plays in Sweden, so I’m pretty sure he knows how to play hockey,” said Sekera, a veteran of 707 NHL games spread over 13 seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings and Oilers.
“He knows what his strengths are and everything. He tries to work on them. You just try to be yourself and what you’re good at and work on those things, keep pushing yourself to the limits.”
“Hard work always pays off.”
Fehervary, just 19-years-old, understands.
He’s been working at becoming a better defenseman.
“I’m a little bit stronger and I try to be a little bit smarter on the ice,” admitted Fehervary, who also represented Slovakia in last year’s World Championship. “Other players are skilled. I try to be more thinking like a man, like a professional. It’s my second year as a professional hockey player. It’s a little bit different of course.”
“But I’m still learning a lot of new things.”
He’s in an excellent position to learn.
The No. 46 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft feels he’s improved by leaps and bounds by playing with HV71 in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), his second season playing professional hockey.
“It’s a really tough league… one of the best in Europe,” said Fehervary, who had seven points (one goal, six assists) in 45 games this season. “The speed is at a high level. It’s a very similar kind of style of play in the NHL, so it helps me a lot to get into the North American style.”
His improvement is noticeable.
“One thing you can tell with Martin is he’s been in a high-end league and that he’s played against higher competition because he attacks,” Slovakia coach Craig Ramsay said.
“He doesn’t sit back. He’s not afraid. He attacks the puck. He actually fools many forwards because they expect him to back up… he doesn’t. His angles are good. His battle… he’s not a big guy but he’s strong… and when he’s in the battle he wins a lot of them.”
“He does it with speed and quickness, but he also does it because he has a big heart.”
Fehervary, Ramsay described, has a big heart.
But he doesn’t have big eyes on the international stage.
The Bratislava, Slovakia product isn’t star struck by some of the opposition’s bigger names.
“It’s a great experience for me to play the first game against a lot of stars from the NHL,” said Fehervary, who has now represented Slovakia at two World Championships, three IIHF World Junior Championships, and two IIHF World Under-18 Championships. “I think it’s really good for me to prepare to come to the NHL.”
The NHL, the 6-foot-2, 194-pound blueliner admits, is a talking point. To himself. And with Sekera.
Because Fehervary is trying to soak up from Sekera what it takes to get there, too.
“I mean, it’s one of my dreams for sure,” Fehervary said. “I want to be in the NHL for a lot of years. I just try to work on my skill, my development, every day. It’s important. He said the small details, it’s important there.
“That’s what I’m working for.”