Player: Kevin Fiala
Drafted By: Nashville Predators (11th overall)
Position: Left Wing/Right Wing
Final Central Scouting Ranking: No. 3 European skater
Height/Weight: 5'10'', 180 lbs
DOB: July 22, 1996 (17 years old)
Most Recent Affiliation: SweHL, HV71 Jonkoping
As the son of a coach, Kevin Fiala has been on a freight train headed straight for the 2014 draft from a young age. That may be a bit hyperbolic, but when you consider what the 17-year-old accomplished this season, there's little question that the shift winger has the talent needed to be an impact player at the NHL level.
Born in Switzerland, Fiala quickly outgrew the competition level of his home country and moved to Sweden when he was 16. He didn't miss a beat, despite leaving his home at a young age, and made his SHL debut at the ripe age of 17.
Fiala has been sneaking up the pre-draft rankings all season long and climbed all the way to the third-highest ranked European skater available.
Pronman "I can't remember a guy in recent years who has had a better second half than Kevin Fiala"— Hope_Smoke (@Hope_Smoke) April 27, 2014
Full Scouting Report
If you're looking for a slick and entertaining forward, Fiala is your guy. Breaking the Swiss mold a bit, the 17-year-old thrives in the offensive zone and can break games open with his dynamic skill. He played in the World Junior Championships, Under-18 Championships and the World Championships (alongside NHL-caliber players) as a teenager and held his own.
Following Fiala's showing at the WJC, Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News shared his early impressions:
Gritty player with great hands, doesn't mind going into traffic for a scoring chance. Got into it with [Bo] Horvat early on. Saw decent power play time and made great effort early in second to get excellent wraparound chance on [Zachary] Fucale. Assisted on Swiss goal but also coughed up the puck 4-on-4 on Canada’s 3-1 goal.
Kennedy touches on the pros and cons of Fiala in this snippet. He's an offensive dynamo but isn't good defensively. It's in this way he breaks the typical Swiss mold.
Thomas Drance from TheScore.com describes Fiala this way:
Fiala is a gifted playmaker, with excellent puck-handling abilities and off-the-charts hockey IQ. While he's undersized, he's gritty and extremely difficult to bump off the puck, though his play without the puck will require improvement before he makes an impact at the NHL level.
Most scouts agree that Fiala isn't quite NHL ready, but he did produce at a noticeable level against grown men this season. Eleven points in 17 games as a teenager against adults is incredible when you think about it.
Kevin Fiala has the highest points-per-game of any 1st round pick since 2006 who spent their draft year in the SEL (inc. Backstrom) #THW— Bill (@Bill_Yards) June 21, 2014
NHL Player Comparison
Small, slick and smart? After watching one of his highlight reels, it's only natural to compare Fiala to Patrick Kane. That's a lofty comparison for a teen, but he backs off defenders with his speed in the same fashion and is capable of making defenders look silly in the style of Kane.
http://t.co/dTmaEKMf2A #28 Kevin Fiala Explosive acceleration sets him apart from the opposition. Incredibly crafty & skilled.— ISS Hockey (@ISShockey) May 13, 2014
Fiala was able to bump it out against professional players in Sweden, but the NHL is a different beast altogether. Must prospects need to bulk up, but Fiala is a player that likes to get to traffic with the puck while trying to make things happen.
It would take a desperate team to bring him to the best pro league in the world for 2014-15, but don't be surprised if you see Fiala among the Calder Trophy favorites for the 2015-16 season.
At best, Fiala will develop into a high-end goal producing forward with high possession metrics. Like Kane, he loves playing with the puck on his stick, but it remains to be seen whether or not he'll be able to do that against NHL defenders.
He does have a bit of an edge, though, and could eventually develop into a strong presence in all three zones. Fiala has a lot to work on defensively, but he has the IQ needed to round out that part of his game over time.