- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Eric Fehr had a productive first year of professional hockey, spending most of his time with Hershey in the American Hockey League last season while getting a small taste of life in the NHL.

The edict from Washington Capitals management for his first offseason as a pro was pretty simple: Fehr needed to fill out his 6-foot-3 frame.

So Fehr, one of the Caps’ top prospects and projected by some scouts to be a prototypical power forward someday, went to work on adding more power to his game.

“I changed my program completely,” Fehr said. “I took out the cardio work, and I just went straight for strength and worked on skating and conditioning.”

He returned to Hershey to start the season and had a two-game callup in late November, but Fehr rejoined the Caps last week. In his first game back against Carolina, Fehr notched his first NHL goal and nearly added another after stealing the puck in front of goaltender Cam Ward.

In five games since his return to the team, Fehr has at least two shots in every game and has created some quality scoring chances.

“I think that was sort of signature Eric Fehr,” Caps coach Glen Hanlon said after Fehr’s first night back. “He played with confidence. I think the commitment to fitness in the summer has really paid off. I think it is really noticeable — he can win battles.”

Fehr had an accomplished junior career with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League. The Caps selected him with the 18th pick overall in the 2003 draft, and he proceeded to rack up back-to-back 50-goal seasons, including WHL-best totals of 59 tallies and 111 points in the 2004-05 season.

Last season Fehr had 25 goals and 53 points in 70 games as a 20-year old rookie for the Bears. He spent 11 games with the Caps late in the season but didn’t see much action and was sent back to Hershey for the AHL playoffs.

“I’ve got to be careful with how I word this, but we didn’t really accommodate him because sort of in the back of our minds we knew it wasn’t something that was going to be long term,” Hanlon said. “We felt for his development he should get down to Hershey, play lots of minutes and win a championship, and it worked out. So when he came up it was a matter of finding seven minutes for him so he could get the feel of what it is like to play in the NHL so he’s comfortable.”

Before this season Fehr came to camp with the Caps hoping to stick with the parent club but instead began his second stint with the Bears. He returned to a scoring pace more in line with his junior hockey success. Fehr had 22 goals and 41 points in 40 games with Hershey and patiently waited for his chance.

“I didn’t really know what to expect. In juniors we had a pretty good team, and I had some pretty good success,” Fehr said. “You can’t necessarily expect to make the jump right to the NHL. I’ve played down in the AHL, and I feel like I’ve improved in a lot of the things that I need to get better on. Hopefully those are the things that lead me to be successful in the NHL.”

Hanlon has played Fehr on the Caps’ second line with Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich during this recent callup. He has played between 10 and 12 minutes a game and even logged a little more than four minutes on the power play Sunday against the Islanders.

As Fehr continues to grow into his body, the Caps hope his size and soft hands will be a perfect compliment on the right side of a line with either Semin or Alex Ovechkin opposite him.

“Every time he has come up he’s played really well,” Caps captain Chris Clark said. “It is just a matter of time for him to be a steady player here.”

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