In the 2014 NHL Draft, the Nashville Predators selected Kevin Fiala with the 11th overall pick. With the 112th pick in the fourth round, Viktor Arvidsson’s name was called by the Predators. Most would expect Fiala to earn a roster spot before Arvidsson based on where they were drafted, but that is not how the story has played out.
Just like many first round draft picks, Fiala is an extremely talented offensive player. He is fast, rather shifty and has incredible hands. On top of making defenders look foolish on a regular basis, Fiala knows how to score and finishes a lot of plays. Before he was drafted, he dazzled hockey fanatics in international tournaments.
When looking at Arvidsson, you will find a similar story. Although not as highly talented as Fiala, Arvidsson also possesses speed, the ability to create plays and most importantly, he can put the puck in the back of the net.
Both players are wingers with very comparable offensive production. According to Eliteprospects.com, Fiala has played in 99 AHL games and has recorded 70 total points. Eliteprospects also shows Arvidsson as having played in 87 AHL games with 73 points. In 2015-16, Fiala led the Milwaukee Admirals, Nashville’s AHL affiliate club, in points. The season before, Arvidsson did the same.
It is clear these two undersized wingers have NHL talent offensively, so why is it that Arvidsson has seemingly been able to cement a roster spot on the Predators before Fiala?
The question above can be answered with just a few words: defense and maturity.
Although both wingers were drafted in 2014, Arvidsson is three years older than Fiala. Those three years of maturity can have a huge impact on a player. Maturity can impact how a player approaches a game, takes criticism, responds to tough situations and prepares for the season. The older Arvidsson certainly had a big advantage in this category over Fiala.
Defense. Fiala has a big hole in his game and it is in his defensive zone. In today’s NHL, it is extremely important for a forward to be responsible in the defensive end. Even if a forward scores goals in bunches, major defensive deficiencies will always catch up to them. Arvidsson can be described as a defensively responsible player, while still being able to produce at the other end of the rink. At the end of the day, his ability to play in his own zone is why he was able to crack the Predators’ roster before Fiala.
Fiala’s defensive game should improve as he matures. The soon-to-be 20-year-old will certainly be gunning for a spot on the Predators’ opening night roster. There is room for him to make the team for 2016-17 season, but he will need to prove he can play a complete game and not be a one-dimensional player. Predators fans should be hoping this is the year Fiala earns a roster spot and is able to keep it. If he is ready to join the big club, the already-stacked Nashville Predators will be that much scarier to any opponent.
Anthony Pagliarulo is a Boston Bruins contributor for The Hockey Writers. He is a Massachusetts native and a Worcester State University alumni. You can follow Anthony on Twitter @APags87.