Kevin Fiala, a Star in the Making
Kevin Fiala got drafted in the first round by the Nashville Predators 11th overall in the 2014 NHL Draft. Although he played early in his career, he did not make it into the lineup as a consistent active player until the 2016-17 season in which he posted 11G and 5A in 54GP. Fiala also scored two goals in five games while playing for the Predators in their run to the Stanley Cup Final, but Fiala’s tournament ended early due to a broken femur.
Fiala burst onto the scene beginning in the 2017-18 season. Throughout his time with Nashville in the 2017-18 season he put up 48 points in 80 games and showed flashes of excellence. This no doubt created interest among other teams throughout the NHL.
The Minnesota Wild missed the playoffs for the first time in six years previous to Fiala’s arrival. Paul Fenton, a name many Wild fans scoff at due to his unique trade logic, acquired Fiala from Nashville. In exchange, the Predators received fan-favorite Mikael Granlund.
Many fans in Minnesota did not know what to think about the trade at the time. Overall, fans of the State of Hockey were mostly skeptical of Fenton in general, not Fiala’s ability. Fenton had recently shipped Nino Niederreiter to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Victor Rask.
Fiala put up decent performances in his first stint with the Wild, but he became Minnesota’s star player in the most recent season. In the first eight games of the 2019-20 season, Fiala scored only one point. Since then, Fiala has been the Wild’s leading scorer, gaining 53 points in 56 games. His season total is now 23G, 31A, for 54P in 64GP and he leads the Wild in points.
A lot has changed for Fiala who, as mentioned before, got off to a slow start. First and foremost, he seems to be playing his style of hockey now. One thing that was talked about when he came from Nashville, was his ability to create something out of nothing. Through the first eight games of the season, fans and coaches didn’t see that.
As the season got underway more, Fiala started to put up better numbers and create some highlight reel plays. In previous games, his goals came from a net-front presence. This is not a negative thing because a goal is a goal, but players like Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu already are net-front presences for the Wild.
Fiala really started to excel when he began to use his speed, hands, and shot to his ability. The first time he showcased this was on November 23rd, 2019 in a game against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Fiala came in on a two on one with Parise. Instead of passing it over, he protected the puck from the Bruins defenseman and cut to the net before slotting it past goaltender Tuukka Rask.
The most impressive moment of the season for Fiala came against his former team. Just over twelve minutes through the first period, Fiala had the puck on a two-on-one with Eric Staal breaking into the zone with him. Fiala opted not to pass and performed a beautiful toe-drag around defenceman Ryan Ellis, before sniping it short-side on goaltender Juuse Saros.
The arena erupted like nothing I’ve ever seen before. From that moment on Kevin Fiala has proven he can be the newest star for Minnesota. Fans throughout the State of Hockey have had an excitement about Fiala since his emergence as the team’s newest star player. A user on the Wild Hockey Subreddit titled a post game thread the “Fiala Have my Children” edition. If that isn’t love for a player, nothing is.
Fans of the Minnesota Wild got to see something that’s been lacking for numerous years now. They got to see a player who creates highlight reel plays when it looks like there is nothing to create. The organization hopes it can continue to make Kevin Fiala a star in Minnesota. The fans would love to see him stick around.
The Minnesota Wild and Kevin Fiala take on the Vancouver Canucks in a best-of-5 play-in series when the NHL resumes.