Nashville Predators Fiala and Moses: North American Ice


The Nashville Predators in the past few days have sent three prized prospects to their AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals. Kevin Fiala, Steve Moses, and Juuse Saros should all be playing sometime soon for the Predators.  One of the reasons given for their demotion is getting used to North American ice and the North American game.

Head coach Peter Laviolette said on the Predators Website:

"“He’s still a player that we’re counting on to be somebody who can produce for us, but I think that there’s a learning curve in coming back [to North America],” Laviolette said of Moses. “The best way to get to that is probably to get to Milwaukee and try to figure that out."

The same thing was said earlier about Fiala when he was sent down and it was also mentioned about Juuse Saros getting used the American game.  So what is this mysterious International “ailment” that players have when moving here from Europe?

There are several differences in the European game, but the biggest is the size of the ice surface itself. North American standard rinks are 200 x 85 feet while European rinks are “Olympic-sized” at 200 x 100 feet.  That may not seem like much of a difference, but when you consider square-footage, we’re talking about a 3000 square-foot increase.  That’s the same as the entire floor space of a nice sized house.

The NHL game focuses more on keeping your lanes and moving through traffic.  They set up ways to section the ice into smaller areas they are able to defend and trap the opposing players on defense.  This keeps players from building up speed and there is much more body contact knocking players off of the puck.

The International style is built more on speed and angles.  They try to build up momentum, especially through the neutral zone and attack the zone with speed.  Defenders use much more stick checking than body contact and are always looking for ways to get the puck moving back the other way.

There are certainly other changes when a player moves to North America.  There can be language and food differences, practice styles tend to be different too.  A player is trying to build chemistry with new teammates and a change in coaching style.  That is a lot to throw at someone, especially a young player.

Everyone points to Filip Forsberg and how he successfully made the crossover to the NHL game.  He started in Milwaukee and got experience there before moving to the NHL level.  It is hoped that Fiala and Moses can do the same.  You still see a lot of the European game in Forsberg’s play the way he flows through traffic and is magic the way he uses his stick to check the puck from opposing players.

Fiala seems closer to moving his game to the NHL style.  His speed, quickness, and creativity with his passing look to translate rather quickly.  He needs to concentrate more on his defense and getting used to the differing style of play.  Reports are that he wasn’t happy about starting the year in Milwaukee and is determined to work harder than ever to get back to Nashville.

Moses seemed more affected by the difference in play.  He is one of the fastest players with the Predators but was getting knocked off the puck by larger players.  He needs to get used to the more physical play and how he can use his speed and quickness to get into position and out of harms way.

Juuse Saros should be able to adapt rather quickly and hopes are that he could be the Predators goaltender of the future.  He is rated as one of the top-three goaltender prospects in the NHL.  His game is built on speed and recovery and it should translate well.

Hopefully, all three of these prospects will be helping the Predators soon.  In the meantime, working hard in Milwaukee can only help their games to get better and get them more used to the American game.

Next: Do the Preds Need a New Backup Goalie?

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