Kevin Fiala doesn't have much experience on the North American-size ice he'll find playing in the NHL. But the Swiss-born forward, taken by the Nashville Predators with the 11th pick of the 2014 NHL Draft, is confident he'll make a smooth adjustment.
"I'm not a very big player, but I'm excited for the smaller rinks," Fiala told reporters in Nashville on Tuesday during Predators prospect development camp. "I think I can do it well because I’m a small player, a skilled player. So I think I can do well."
Fiala has done well before arriving in Nashville. Playing for HV 71 in the Swedish Hockey League, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound left wing had three goals and 11 points in 17 regular-season games, and one goal and five assists in eight playoff games.
He also was busy playing for his country. He had four goals and five assists in five games for Switzerland at the 2014 IIHF World Under-18 Championship; five points in five games at the 2014 World Junior Championship; and two assists in seven games at the 2014 World Championship.
"We haven't been able to select a game-breaker, but this year I believe we were finally able to add that in the draft," Predators general manager David Poile told the team website. "We got one of the most talented, most skilled forwards available with Fiala. … He's a guy that right from the winter meetings our guys wanted. Outside of the top five in the draft, this was the guy we wanted. They really feel that he can be special."
It was playing at the World Championship, where Switzerland finished 10th, that Fiala got a real taste of what playing in the NHL could be like. One of his teammates at that tournament will be his teammate in Nashville: defenseman Roman Josi.
"He's a good guy and he can help me out lots," Fiala said of Josi.
When Fiala gets to be teammates full-time with Josi remains to be seen. Fiala won't turn 18 until July 22 and could return to Sweden for another season of development; the American Hockey League also is an option. Fiala said he's willing to be patient.
"My goal is [the] NHL and I would like to be there right now," Fiala said. "I'll 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."