Looking to make the leap: Kevin Fiala
This is part of Nashville Predators day at PHT...
Over the past decade the Nashville Predators have made a habit out of stockpiling defensemen in their organization. A big part of that process has been using top draft picks on the position to help build a steady pipeline of talent at the position. Of the eight first-round draft picks the team has had since 2005, five of them have been used to select blue liners.
Because of that commitment, drafting potential impact forwards high in the draft hasn’t really seemed to be much of a priority.
One of the few exceptions over that stretch came in 2014 when they took Kevin Fiala, a highly skilled forward out of the Swedish league, with the No. 11 overall pick. After missing the cut for the NHL roster at the start of 2015-16, he might be on the verge of making a significant impact this season.
When it comes to making the NHL his offensive game isn’t really much of a concern. Since arriving in North America from the Swedish league he has proven to be a talented scoring, including this past season when he led Nashville’s AHL team in scoring with 50 points.
The concern the Predators seem to have with Fiala right now has more to do with his play away from the puck and his maturity. Over the summer general manager David Poile told Adam Vignan of the Tennessean, “He’s just got to have some more maturity as a young man in terms of everything that you do on a daily basis to be a pro. It’s just a process. All I know is this guy is as committed as anybody to make it.”
And if he does make it, whether it is at the start of the season or later on, that is going to make an already promising Predators team just that much better both now and in the future because of the young talent they have already making an impact in the NHL. Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi, Ryan Johansen, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm help make up a tremendous core group of players that are all age 26 or younger going into this season and all signed to pretty favorable contracts under the salary cap. Adding another young player with skill into Peter Laviolette’s system with that type of core already in place should be a pretty exciting thought for Predators fans.
Since being drafted Fiala has had two brief appearances in the NHL for the Predators, playing in one game in 2014-15 and five games in 2015-16.
He scored his first goal just one minute into his first game with the big club this past season.