Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2014 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Sports is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! For a Complete Listing of all our 2014 Draft Articles Click here.
For years there has been a big seven in International Hockey. Canada, Russia, USA, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic, and Slovakia have widely been acknowledged as the best of the best when it comes to almost all IIHF tournaments. However there is one country that has made a ton of noise in recent years, creating havoc at all levels of international competition, and changing our perceptions from the Big Seven to the Elite Eight. That country is Switzerland, and the latest draft prospect out of Switzerland is Kevin Fiala.
Fiala is not your typical Swiss prospect. First he plays his club HV71 Jonkoping of the Swedish Hockey League, not in Switzerland. Second, most Swiss teams have gotten by due to strong goaltending, and strong team based defensive play in recent years and have lacked the true game breakers with top offensive skill. Fiala is not that player. He’s got plenty of offensive skill to spare, as seen by 11 points in 17 SHL games (fantastic numbers for a 17-year-old), nine points in five games at the Under 18 World Championships, and five points in five games at this year’s World Junior Championships. However the defensive game is a bit of a work in progress for Fiala.
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born July 22 1996 — Switzerland
Height 5.11 — Weight 194 [180 cm/88 kg]
Kevin Fiala is a dynamic skater. He has great speed and acceleration. He can beat defenders to the outside and get by them and cut to the net. He has great edgework and agility, and a tremendous first step. This gives him the ability to fool defenders with quick cuts and then turning on the jets. Fiala has very good balance and is strong on the puck and this should only improve as he continues to add muscle going forward.
In terms of offensive tools Fiala uses his speed to be first on the forecheck and creates great pressure on the defence. He is effective with his stick in creating turnovers. Once he gets the puck he protects it well and has a number of clever moves with his stick which can help him get around defenders. He is a solid passer, with very good vision. However, Fiala is at his best as a sniper. His wrist and snap shots feature great releases and he has the hockey sense to find open spots in the defence where teammates can set him up.
Defensively, there is no easy way to put this, Fiala is a train-wreck. He misses assignments and seems incapable of playing the system his team does, whether that is at the under-18 level, or at the World Juniors. We get the same reports out of Sweden, that defense is a major issue with him in the SHL. He chases the puck all over the ice, and leaves his man open as a result. He flies the zone as soon as his team gets the puck and does not try to set up a proper breakout. It seems like he is a player who will need to mature, and understand that the game is more than just about offence, or he will not see ice time with most NHL coaches.
I cant even make a full style comparison for Fiala. There really isn’t a player in the NHL who plays with as much reckless defensive abandon as he does. Offensively, his game resembles Alex Semin, but even Semin has more commitment in the defensive end of the ice. In terms of potential, his offensive game is great, and the sky is the limit offensively, but its a big-time boom or bust with Fiala as he will need to learn some form of defensive game, or never find himself an NHL regular.
Here are some highlights of Fiala in Action.
Check back Thursday for my number 30 ranked prospect.
For the latest sports injury news, check out our friends at Sports Injury Alert.
Thank you for reading. Please take a moment to follow me on Twitter – @lastwordBkerr. Support LWOS by following us on Twitter – @LastWordOnSport – and “liking” our Facebook page.
Interested in writing for LWOS? We are looking for enthusiastic, talented writers to join our Hockey writing team. Visit our ”Write for Us“ page for very easy details in how you can get started today!