Goalscorer Fiala adds penalty functions to his well-balanced game


Kevin Fiala was on the ice at the end of the game as only one goal separated the two teams.

He is also in action when there is a power play.

But his intention in these situations is not to score.

The winger with a nose for the net is actually trying to prevent the attack.

“I just think I can do more,” said Fiala. “I want more, and I think I can do that too. I think I’m one of those guys who always wants to be better at something else.”

Since joining the franchise in 2019, the 25-year-old has been the Wild’s top producer and has just scored 20 consecutive goals. But his repertoire is growing.

Fiala has the chance to use his playmaking skills in a new way, defending other teams when the Wild are outnumbered, and he appreciates the opportunity to show that there is more to his game. only goals.

“The best players in the world, they do everything,” said Fiala. “They are not only [offensive]. When I think about myself, it’s gonna be my next step and be [an] type of guy all around.

“That’s my goal for this season and for the future.”

This development started to take shape last season.

After barely crossing the penalty path in his first year with the Wild following a Nashville trade, Fiala began to pick up reps with the PK. Now he’s averaging over a minute and a half of shorthanded ice time per game; who is the fourth among the forwards of the Wild.

And he’s got a knack for that, being on the ice for just one of the seven power play goals the Wild have allowed five games in the season.

His strategy is a mixture of defensive positioning and offensive instinct: Fiala follows the structure of the Wild for how the team wants to settle on the PK, but he also uses his intelligence to anticipate what the other team will try. to do.

This is what makes him unique penalty killer for Wild coach Dean Evason.

“When you’re on the PK you have to be really good at reading guys,” said winger Marcus Foligno, one of the Wild’s shorthanded specialists. “Guys are so good at cheating and watching passes or watching guys, and Kev is one of those guys who does a lot and that’s why he’s so good offensively. He kind of has that side where he has a good stick, and he can really skate too, looks like he’s not that close to you and so he can be right on you.

“He’s also a threat, too, where you have to be careful with a guy like that because he can aim for a shorthanded goal. Sometimes that kind of play in the power play spirit when you have a guy like that.”

Intercepting the puck and going the other way isn’t the number one priority for shorthanded Fiala, but it’s on his radar.

“My first option will always be to take it down, to deepen it,” said Fiala, who has never scored shorthanded in his NHL career. “It’s the job. My job is not to score on the PK. He will defend. But if there is an opportunity to have time and to take time with them or even to have a chance to score a goal, I’m gonna take it for sure. “

In nearly 140 games with the Wild, Fiala has scored numerous goals – 5v5, power play and overtime. He already has one goal and two assists this season and has just eclipsed the 200-point plateau after signing a one-year, $ 5.1 million contract in the offseason.

“The best players in the world, they do everything. They are not only [offensive]. When I think of myself, it’s gonna be my next step and be [an] type of guy all around. That’s my goal for this season and for the future.

Kevin Fiala

No one on the squad has scored more than him (47 goals and 104 points) since he started outfitting for the Wild.

With such a track record, offense could be Fiala’s only goal. But it’s not.

“No one is perfect,” he said. “Everyone has to work on all things. For me it was just very important to be [a] reliable player that Dean can trust me in this situation so I can play anytime. “

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