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Predators hope Kevin Fiala has grown on, off ice

Nashville's top prospect needs to get stronger, more mature to earn full-time NHL spot

by Robby Stanley / Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- Nashville Predators prospect Kevin Fiala is approaching this summer the same as last summer, with the expectation of making the Predators' opening-night roster. But Nashville management hope he's mature enough to handle whatever decision is made.

Fiala, 19, was taken with the 11th pick of the 2014 NHL Draft and has an NHL-ready offensive skill set. But there are questions about the left wing's ability to play in the defensive zone and his maturity.

"He's got work to do, both on and off the ice," Predators general manager David Poile said. "There's maturity, both physically and mentally. [Predators strength coach David Good] is going to really challenge him over the summer.

"[Fiala] is staying [in Nashville] for the rest of the summer, so that's how dedicated and committed he is to try and win a spot. He's just got to have some more maturity as a young man in terms of everything you do on a daily basis to be a pro."

Video: NSH@WPG: Fiala scores on rebound for the early lead

Fiala had one goal in five regular-season games last season. He also played in one regular-season game and one Stanley Cup Playoff game in 2014-15.

"I wanted to be, of course, in the NHL last year, but actually it doesn't matter," Fiala said Saturday after a scrimmage to conclude the Predators' development camp. "I'm still young. I'm 19. I have to respect the process and that's it. I just do what they tell me to do and just give my best every day, and see what happens."

What happened last season is Fiala was sent to Milwaukee, the Predators' American Hockey League affiliate, to start the season. By his own admission he did not handle things well. It took him a while to get going, but he ended the season as Milwaukee's leading scorer with 50 points (18 goals, 32 assists) in 66 games.

"I was really bad in the start [of the season]," Fiala said. "I was mentally bad. But I told myself after that, 'You can't do it like that anymore and you have to pick it up,' and that's what I did. I just did my best every day after.

"You want to go in the NHL as quickly as possible of course, but I'm 19 right now and I understand it doesn't work like that. You have to have a process, step-by-step. That's the way it is. Everybody has to go through it and I'm going through it right now. I hope this year it's going to happen."

A big help to Fiala's growth off of the ice has been his relationship with Predators defenseman Roman Josi, who, like Fiala, is a native of Switzerland. Josi has been a resource Fiala has been able to rely upon since he was drafted by the Predators.

"He's great," Fiala said. "He's a good friend for me. He's just helping me out. Also when I was in Milwaukee, he called me a few times just to check how things were. It's just great to have a guy like that. He helps me a lot off the ice and on the ice. He's a great person."

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