Most NHL prospects patiently wait for the opportunity to get called up to play in the big leagues. But Nashville Predators prospect Kevin Fiala is not like most NHL prospects.
Having already played in two NHL games for the Predators, Fiala is thirsty for more time in Nashville. In the end-of-the-year meeting with general manager David Poile, Fiala proclaimed to him that he will “be playing for Nashville next season.”
It is either Nashville or bust for the St. Gallen, Switzerland native.
“Everybody has goals, and my goal is to make the team this year,” Fiala said at the Predators’ development camp last Wednesday. “But I have to take it step-by-step. I have to keep practicing and give one hundred percent every day. I’m bigger and stronger, so hopefully, I make the team this year.”
In the two games Fiala played, the 2014 first rounder went up against elite competition in the Montreal Canadiens during the regular season and the Chicago Blackhawks during the playoffs. Fiala was held scoreless in both contests, had a -2 rating and recorded an average time on ice of 11:15.
Though Fiala made a minimal impact, the eighteen-year-old said he learned a lot from the experience.
“It was a nice experience to play against Montreal and Chicago,” Fiala said. “It was unbelievable for me at eighteen years old. It was very important for me to see how the level [of skill] was for next season. It helped me a lot.”
With a couple of games under Fiala’s belt, he is now familiar with what it takes to consistently play at the NHL level. One of the things he learned quickly is the need to become stronger and faster. Since the first week of June, Fiala has trained with Predators strength and conditioning coach David Good.
“[Good’s] a great coach,” Fiala said. “He helps me to get [ready for] what I need to get ready for [in] the NHL by being bigger and stronger. I’m happy that he took the time for me. It’s great to have the opportunity to practice [in Nashville] all year.”
For Fiala to make the Preds’ roster out of training camp, he will have to go above and beyond. Currently, there are eight players – Viktor Arvidsson, Gabriel Bourque, Fiala, Calle Jarnkrok, Steve Moses, Miikka Salomaki, Colton Sissons and Austin Watson – competing for just three open roster spots. Nevertheless, Fiala still believes he can make the team.
“It’s my dream [to play in the NHL]. Every hockey player wants that since we were small. I’m really close [to achieving] it right now. I don’t want to stop. I want to make the team.”
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Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW.