Kevin Fiala (middle) was lightning for the Swiss (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)
The Nashville Predators prospect has been playing great against men in Sweden and kicked off his 2015 world juniors with a virtuoso performance for Switzerland, a suddenly potent team
It was only one game, but right winger Kevin Fiala has served notice that he is for real - and he's not the only weapon in Switzerland's arsenal at the 2015 world juniors.
The Nashville Predators prospect scored two scintillating goals to help the Swiss dust a suddenly vulnerable Czech Republic squad 5-2 in Switzerland's opening game of the tourney.
“The first game is the most important," Fiala said. "I was ready for the game, 100 percent focused and that's why I played like that.”
Both Fiala goals came on rocket-powered wrist shots; the first set up less than a minute in by 2015 prospect Timo Meier and the second on a mind-bending end-to-end rush. At last year's world juniors, Fiala was noticeable for his motor and his drive to create. The results weren't always found on the scoresheet, but it put him on the radar. Then he had a great world under-18 tournament, followed by a surprise inclusion on the men's team for the World Championship.
Now that pretty good player from the world juniors in Malmo looks like a great player in Toronto. Not only is he putting points up, but he also saw time on the penalty kill and was even dangerous then.
“Last year I was a 1996 birthday with 1994s; I was very young there," he said. "Now I have a leadership role with this team and I try to get us going by scoring goals and creating offense.”
He's 1-for-1 in that category and he's not alone. The Swiss have traditionally had to grind out victories, but with Fiala, Meier and 2015 prospect Kay Schweri among others, the team has some high-octane options at forward. With two dangerous scoring lines and a shutdown trio that can also score in Jason Fuchs-Luca Fazzini-Noah Rod, the Swiss simply overwhelmed the Czech Republic, which looked out of sorts in a second straight loss after dropping their opener to Sweden. The Swiss watched that game from the stands to see what level they would be facing, but Fiala was in top gear so quickly, it might not have mattered what kind of research he did.
“Kevin, for me, has the greatest hands in the tournament,” said Rod, a San Jose pick.
Not only is Fiala drawing off his past international experience, but the 11th overall selection in the 2014 draft has also been deployed quite effectively in the Swedish League, where he plays his club hockey for HV 71. His 14 points in 20 games is very impressive for a teenager and his confidence keeps building.
“I feel home there," Fiala said. "I get a lot of ice time and that's what I need.”
If he continues to play like he did in Switzerland's world junior opener, ice time will not be an issue.