Preds Select Kevin Fiala in 1st Round
PHILADELPHIA – With the 11th selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the Nashville Predators selected forward Kevin Fiala on Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. A Switzerland native who split the 2013-14 between HV71’s junior and Swedish Hockey League teams, Fiala is known as a dynamic offensive forward with game-breaking potential.
A respectable and shifty skater with quick legs and explosive acceleration, Fiala owns a slick skill-set with soft hands, good stick handling and brilliant puck-control. In addition to his wealthy arsenal of shooting tools which, combined with his creativity and finishing abilities, makes him the player you turn to if you need a goal, he has a quickness and agility that lets him avoid getting hit or held back along the boards.
Fiala, (7/22/96), was a finalist for the 2014 SHL Rookie of the Year Award after tying for the lead in points among all under-18 players in Sweden’s highest league with 11 (3g-8a) in 17 games for HV71. The 5-10, 180-pound winger started the 2013-14 season with the HV71 junior squad, ranking among the league leaders in goals (10), assists (15) and points (25) in 27 games before his January promotion. Fiala spent his first season in Sweden in 2012-13 with the Malmo organization, posting 10 points (6g-4a) in nine games at the under-18 level and 28 points (9g-19a) in 33 games at the junior level.
“It was an easy decision to move to Sweden and play there,” Fiala said. “I thought I could improve my game and I have improved there in my two years. Everyone believed in me and I played on the A-team [HV71] right after the Under-20 World Championship.”
Internationally, the St. Gallen, Switzerland native represented his homeland at the World Junior Championship in Sweden, the Under-18 World Championship in Finland and the World Championship in Belarus in 2014, becoming just the third player ever to participate in all three tournaments in the same year (Andrei Kostitsyn and Vadim Karagan, Belarus in 2003). Fiala led the Swiss in points at both the under-18 tournament (4g-5a-9pts, 5gp), being named was named one of the nation’s three best players in the process, and World Juniors (1g-4a-5pts, 5gp) as the team’s youngest member. At 17, he was the youngest member of Switzerland’s entry at the World Championship by three years, posting three assists and a team-best +3 rating playing alongside Predators defenseman Roman Josi and forward Simon Moser.
Rounds 2-7 of the Entry Draft continue Sunday morning at 9 a.m. CT with the Predators holding seven more selections: Nos. 42 and 46 (second round), No. 72 (third round), Nos. 102 and 112 (fourth round), No. 132 (fifth round) and No. 162 (sixth round).
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT KEVIN FIALA:
Director of European Scouting, Goran Stubb: "He impressed with his explosive skating, great puck-handling skills and overall quickness and speed. He has great offensive instincts and is full of surprises in the offensive zone. He just needs a bit more muscle and strength and some work in his defensive zone."
Red Line Report’s Kyle Woodlief: “The one true high-end prospect who did more than just solidify his ranking was super-slick Swiss puck wizard Kevin Fiala. He had been hanging around the mid-to-late teens area of our list much of the season, primarily because of his middling size. But in Finland (at the Under-18 World Championship) he once again reminded us of just how dynamic he can be, and we're now inclined to overlook the size issue and push him up near Top 10 status.”
TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button: “Fiala's skills are very good but when you combine them with excellent determination, you get a player who can make a difference. He plays where it matters.”
ESPN Insider’s Corey Pronman: “The next great Swiss prospect, Fiala really started to turn heads from about December on. He had a strong World Junior Championship and under-18 World Championship, started playing top-six minutes in the SHL, putting up a ton of points in the process. In terms of points per game, he had the second-highest rate in the SHL among under-18 players in modern history, behind Peter Forsberg. He can make highlight-reel plays with the puck, and he's also a really good passer with great hockey IQ, and doesn't seem to turn the puck over. On the power play, Fiala is the kind of player you want controlling the puck and starting the puck movement.”
KEVIN FIALA FAST FACTS:
• On Twitter @KevinFiala22
• His father, Jan, played briefly in the lower Swiss leagues and is a long-time junior coach in Switzerland.
• He speaks four languages: Czech, English, German and some Swedish.