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After season of change, Fiala finds himself in a familiar spot

Forward has been instrumental in Switzerland's fast start at the IIHF World Championships

by Aaron Vickers / Special to

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia -- A season surrounded by change has, ironically, landed Wild forward Kevin Fiala in a familiar spot: A starring role on the World stage.
Fiala, representing Switzerland for the ninth time at an international tournament, is more than coming into his own at the 2019 IIHF World Championship.

"It's awesome," said Fiala, acquired by the Wild at the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 25. "I want to help my country to get better, to be better at this tournament. Every time I get to wear the jersey I'm proud of it. Right now I'm just happy to be here. I'm a young player still. I just want to play. I'm happy to be here."

Understandably so.

Fiala, a key cog in a memorable Switzerland group that nabbed silver at last year's event, is enjoying his most efficient start at the men's World Championship.

Switzerland, undefeated through the opening two games of Group B action, is paced by Fiala's four points (three goals, one assist) -- one off the tournament lead held by a host of others. He was named Switzerland's player of the game in their opener against Italy, too.

Video: MIN@VGK: Fiala extends lead with power-play goal

It's a role he can build off of back with the Wild, no doubt.

"He's such a talented kid," said Swiss defenseman Yannick Weber, a former teammate of Fiala's with the Nashville Predators. "I was happy for him he's got a good place in Minnesota. He seems to be playing a lot. Now having him on the National Team, it's fun. He's a good kid and so highly skilled.

"He's definitely our difference-maker."

Weber, understandably, is one of the foremost experts on Fiala's game.

The two were teammates together for the past two-plus seasons before Fiala was scooped up by Wild general manager -- and former Predators assistant GM -- Paul Fenton.

So too was Roman Josi, present for each of the three-plus seasons Fiala spent with the Preds.

The Swiss reunion has been celebrated amongst the trio.

Video: MIN@NSH: Fiala strikes off the draw to tie game

"It's good, yeah," Josi started. "I played with him for a long time and he kind of came to Nashville when he was really young. I became really good friends and tried to help him out a little bit. It's good to see him back and good to see him playing so well.

"At the end of the day it's a business. Every team tries to put the best team together. The team tries to make trades or whatever they think they need. It's part of the NHL. He's a great player. Great young kid. I'm really happy for him that he's playing so well."

The trade from Nashville, which selected him with the No. 11 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, came as a surprise for Fiala. He was just half a season removed from a 23-goal, 48-point campaign with the Predators, and, despite ups and downs, had pieced together 32 points (10 goals, 22 assists) in 64 games with his former club.

It was a lot to take for the 22-year-old.

"But you get into it after a few days," said Fiala, who has amassed 104 points (48 goals, 56 assists) in 223 career NHL games. "Right now I'm just very happy.

"There are some things (to deal with), but the Wild and the players, the whole organization made it so easy for me. Everyone was so nice to me. I kind of felt it was easier than I thought."

Video: MIN@NSH: Fiala scores in return to Nashville

Fiala's 19-game sprint with Minnesota to close out the year is one he can build a foundation on.

Amidst the turmoil of relocation, Fiala showed flashes in assembling his seven points (three goals, four assists). So too, could his appearance -- yet again -- on the global stage.

With another standout performance. With another medal, too.

"It was a great experience to show people what we can do (last year)," Fiala said. "Right now we're on the same boat. Everyone has a goal. Every team has the same goal. That's why I'm here. Right now we're just having a fun tournament winning some games. After that we will look (at the summer)."

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