No. 4 Kevin Fiala (LW/RW)
Birthday: July 22, 1996 (Age 20)
Weight: 192 lbs.
NHL Draft: 2014 1st Round, 11th Overall
Milwaukee Admirals (AHL): 66 GP, 18 G, 32 A, 50 P, 78 PIM, -19
Nashville Predators (NHL): 5 GP, 1 G, 0 A, 1 P, 0 PIM, +0
The Nashville Predators hockey community is pretty well-versed in the history of Kevin Fiala. With that in mind, I’m going to change up my “format” for this write up. I really want to make sure expectations are still there but also realistic for the young budding forward going into the future.
A Quick Recap of How the Hype Started
When Fiala was drafted, the Predators’ team and fans were starving for offense. So, unfortunately and unwittingly, the highly potent winger picked up 11th overall was made the beacon of offensive hope for the future by the Predators’ staff, myself, and others.
Everything culminated to a peak in the summer of 2015 when Fiala told the organization he was not going back to Milwaukee and he was going to play in Nashville the following season. He then spent all summer in Nashville working out and training; a great display of his fantastic work ethic and drive to become an NHL player.
As much as that showed well on the young forward, at that point—looking back on it all—the expectations were set high, and Fiala was either going to fulfill them or view being sent down to Milwaukee as a complete and utter failure. Of course, the latter occurred and Fiala took it very hard in the beginning of the season. That really affected his play and it wasn’t until about mid-season when he finally was able to get back on track in hi
Fiala’s Development Up Until Now
Fiala wasn’t hyped up for no reason. He is the complete package in the offensive end. He is both a great playmaker and a great goal scorer with fantastic smarts, vision, and passing and a fast-release wrist shot that is both very accurate and sneaky hard. With borderline elite speed and shiftiness and great hands, he can explode into the offensive zone and beat many defensemen one-on-one.
He has also developed into quite the beefcake, and working out in Nashville has definitely paid its dividends. At development camp he looked every bit or more of his listed 192 pounds. So, even though Fiala is 5-foot-10, he will have absolutely no problem with the bigger NHL defensemen.
It is also worth mentioning Fiala missed the World Junior Championships last season so he could stay in Milwaukee and continue developing. That is a huge testament to his dedication to make it to the NHL.
Part of where Fiala has progressed and needs to continue progressing is being a more reliable offensive threat. At times, he makes plays with the puck that drive the coaches mad. He needs to further simplify his game in the neutral zone and better learn when to use his skill or make the simple play when he has the puck.
Fiala’s play away from the puck is another major factor keeping him out of the NHL right now. He has shown a great desire to back-check and play physical but that is only half the battle. He still needs to be better positionally with his body and stick and get in the right lanes.
Scott Nichol talks about Fiala needing to develop his defensive game
At the end of the day, Fiala’s skillset is that of a first line player and that is what will get him to the NHL if he makes it. He is never going to be a very relied upon player defensively, and that will always be a work in progress. Despite his flaws, Fiala is still the Predators’ best prospect in my mind.
Expectations for Next Season
During the Predators’ development camp this summer, Fiala acknowledged his path to the NHL might not be as direct as he had once hoped and he is growing as a person.
It’s important to show the coaches that it’s been another year and you grew up. It’s just another year and a year to be better than before… I had a goal set; I wanted to be in the NHL last year, but it doesn’t matter, I’m still young and I’m still developing. I have to respect the process, and that’s it. I just do what they tell me to do, just give my best every day and see what happens. [NashvillePredators.com]
At the end of the day, developing into the kind of player and person that can play in the NHL is not an exact science and Fiala is still improving on the things that will get him to the NHL. And guess what…he still has time and he’s still on track. A quick look below and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out:
First full season in the NHL at age 20:
Kyle Okposo (1st Round, 7th Overall)
Mark Scheifele (1st Round, 7th Overall)
Filip Forsberg (1st Round, 11th Overall)
Max Domi (1st Round, 12th Overall)
Nikita Kucherov (2nd Round, 58th Overall)
First full season in the NHL at age 21:
Jeff Carter (1st Round, 11th Overall)
Zach Parise (1st Round, 21st Overall)
Claude Giroux (1st Round, 22nd Overall)
Tyler Toffoli (2nd Round, 47th Overall)
Johnny Gaudreau (4th Round, 104th Overall)
I made that list not to say Fiala is the next Max Domi or Johnny Gaudreau, but to illustrate the fact that many of the top NHLers took some time to get there, as well.
Paul Fenton talks about having patience with Fiala, whose game still needs to be rounded out.
Going into next season Fiala has a fair shot to make the team and definitely don’t count him out. He will have to battle it out against the two Swedes (Viktor Arvidsson and Pontus Aberg) to get the spot and he will have to show his all-around game has progressed enough.
However, the Predators are by no means going to rush Fiala’s development and if he gets sent down to the AHL we could very well see him in gold full time later in the season or even next season. He has plenty of time.
Projected NHL Arrival: 2016-2017
2015-2016 Grade: B+
NHL Projection: First-Line Wing
Kevin Fiala scores his first NHL goal with a wicked wrist shot top shelf.
Fiala shows of his strength and speed by getting by a defenseman and shaking off his check to get to the net for an eventual goal.
Fiala beats the goalie with a quick release snipe of a wrist shot.
Fiala’s 2014-2015 AHL Highlights
All stats via EliteProspects.com