No denying it: Fiala looks like the superstar the Wild needs
Winger remains red-hot with highlight-reel goal, assist in Minnesota's win Tuesday over Nashvilleby Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com
ST. PAUL -- At this point, there's really only one question left to answer: what can't Kevin Fiala do?
The future certainly seems sky high for Minnesota's 23-year-old winger, who scored yet another brilliant, scintillating, highlight-reel goal Tuesday night, this time against the team that traded him to Minnesota just over one year ago.
"It's incredible, it really is, his hands, his vision," said Wild interim coach Dean Evason. "He's clearly feeling it."
There was significant hand-wringing by some when that deal was made, a trade that was consummated by Minnesota's previous general manager, who believed Fiala had a chance to be a "game-breaker."
Video: Dean Evason postgame vs Predators
That pressure didn't help Fiala during his post-trade run with the Wild last season, and it certainly didn't help when he was late to training camp this season, if only by a couple days.
Another slow start fueled doubts, but Fiala has done much to silence the critics over the past couple of months.
Fiala has now scored in five consecutive games, with his tally Tuesday night marking his 21st of the season. Since Feb. 4, over a span of 15 games, Fiala has 12 goals and 11 assists.
Minnesota, during that stretch, improved to 10-4-1, and vaulted itself smack dab into the middle of the playoff mix in the Western Conference.
But his goal on Tuesday night was a reminder once again of the kind of prodigious talent Fiala has always had inside him, skill that is now oozing out of him on a nightly basis.
With Fiala controlling the puck and coming down the right-wing wall 2-on-1, Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis laid on his stomach, taking away the passing lane and Fiala's ability to cut to the middle of the rink.
Video: NSH@MIN: Fiala toe drags, scores fantastic goal
Instead, he toe-dragged to his right, around Ellis to the bottom of the right circle before flipping a puck over the glove of Preds goaltender Juuse Saros and just under the crossbar.
"Everything set up perfectly," Fiala said. "And I hit the spot too. I was pumped. I was so happy it went in, and against my last team ... no better feeling."
Perhaps the best part about it was that Fiala said the execution of the move came completely naturally, an example of the kind of rare creativity not seen around here in a long time.
"I didn't even think about it, it just came in my head in that moment, in my body," Fiala said.
While Fiala showed flashes of that skill at points this season, and certainly two years ago when he played for the Predators, he's been doing it every night for the better part of at least a month now.
Because he's been in the NHL for most of the past three seasons, it's sometimes easy to forget that he's still just 23. The skill has always been there, but consistency is almost always the last thing to come for any young player.
If the past eight weeks are any indication, that consistency has arrived for Fiala.
Which again, begs the question ... what can't this guy do?
"He's magic, man. He gets it," said Wild goaltender Alex Stalock. "He's the guy where fans are starting to get out of their seats now. But not only can he do it ... the moves and beat a defenseman, but the puck is starting to go in the net. That's not easy to do but right now, its been on a consistent basis.
"He has a ton of confidence right now and this kid, when he has it going, it's fun to watch."
For certain, Fiala is doing things in these parts that fans haven't seen since Marian Gaborik was wearing No. 10. Sure, guys have had better statistical seasons than the one Fiala is having, but few -- if any -- have been able to draw the kinds of "ooohs" and "ahhhs" that Fiala has been able to draw almost nightly from Wild fans.
Video: NSH@MIN: Parise slams loose puck past Saros
"It's not an easy play, what he did with a defenseman sliding at you," said Wild forward Zach Parise. "It's been fun as a bystander to watch him do that."
It's to the point now where is seems whomever is on the ice with Fiala right now is doing everything they can to just get him the puck.
"He's on fire right now. And nice goals, not my kind of goals, but nice goals," deadpanned Parise, who ironically enough, scored one of "his" goals in the third period on Tuesday. "He's feeling it and I think this last five, six, seven games, he's just taken off and its been so big for our team."
Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 3, Predators 1