Very few hockey players make the jump to the NHL the season immediately after they’re drafted, and that’s held true for the majority of Nashville Predators prospects.
To date, four Predators first-round selections have played in the NHL the season following their draft: forwards David Legwand (one game in the 1998-1999 campaign), Scott Hartnell, Scottie Upshall and defenseman Seth Jones. But the historically low odds aren’t phasing Nashville’s 2014 first-round pick, Kevin Fiala.
The forward has his sights set on making the Predators roster this fall at the age of 18.
“My goal is [the] NHL and I want to be there right now. I’m going to work hard and take it step by step. If I don’t make it this year, I’ll take it step by step and make it next year,” Fiala said. “If I work hard in the summer and until this season, then I think I have a chance this year.”
Selected 11th overall two weeks ago at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia, the winger recognizes the special opportunity he’s been given by Nashville, and he doesn’t intend to waste it. Predators General Manager David Poile has been candid about how high he and his scouting staff were on Fiala prior to the draft, so it appears both parties foresee a good match.
“It was an amazing feeling to be drafted by Nashville; they’re a really good team. I think Nashville is a great fit for me,” Fiala said. “I’m an offensive player. I’ve got good hands, and I think my skating is a strength. I’m willing to score goals or create plays–whatever is needed for our team to win the Stanley Cup.”
Fiala’s proven offensive talent at other levels of professional hockey might just be his fast pass to Nashville. Recently-appointed Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has openly discussed his desire for more goal scoring up and down his lineup–and if the young winger shows talent in training camp–the bench boss has said he’s open to anything.
First up for Fiala is making a good impression with the coaching staff at development camp this week. He also thinks his relationship with Nashville defenseman Roman Josi might help him get the inside track, even before training camp this fall.
“I know Roman Josi here; I played with him at the World Championships. He’s already helped me out a lot with how things work,” said Fiala. “My goal is to get to know the players [at development camp] and then later the whole team. I want to know the organization, so I know where to go.”
The 17-year-old explained that it won’t be easy to become the fifth Predators first rounder to make the club in his first season, but he also said several times he wants to do all that’s in his power to try and make history.
“My goal is the NHL this year,” said Fiala. “I think I have the chance in my hands.”
The performances by Fiala in development camp this week–and at training camp later this fall–will go a long way in determining what roster he’ll spend the majority of his time on next season. If not with the Predators, then Fiala could suit up for the club’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, or perhaps return to Sweden (where he played for HV 71 in the Swedish Hockey League).
But Fiala says he isn’t worried about that part of his future currently, he only has the Predators roster in focus right now.