OTPH Staff Writer
During the magical run that was the 2017 playoffs, those following the Preds watched Kevin Fiala give a glimpse of the type of impact he could have. Only playing in 5 games due to a gruesome injury in game one of the 2nd round against the Blues. Fiala scored two goals, including a spectacular game-winning overtime goal in game 3 against the Blackhawks. After fracturing his femur in round 2, Kevin Fiala returned for the 2017-2018 season and decided to let the league know that he was worth the 11th overall pick. Posting career highs in one season at every stat besides hits is a good way to do that. Fiala netted 23 goals with a 12.3 shooting percentage. However, this year he only has 1 goal on 28 shots giving him only a 3.6 shooting percentage….so what’s different?
1.) Firstly, Fiala plays on a line with Kyle Turris and Craig Smith like he did the majority of the time last year, but worth noting is that this year Fiala has already spent time on two additional lines as well, which causes inconsistencies in his play due to the changing chemistry between lines. Fiala has started the year with only 1 goal and 6 helpers throughout the first 16 games, but he actually has scored all of his points in the last 10 games, meaning that leapfrogging from line to line actually had quite the effect. Fiala went from averaging no points per game the first 6 games, he has pulled himself into .7 points per game meaning that if he keeps up the pace, he will finish with 46 more points on the score sheet. That is a big if though, because every player has ups and downs, but as of right now, Kevin Fiala is trending up.
2.) Secondly, and in my opinion, the biggest change, is Fiala’s shot. Not the motion of the shot but the location. Last year Fiala shot almost 55% of his shots from the mid to high slot, meaning, he was shooting at the goalie straight on in the area between the faceoff circles, which allowed him to shoot at multiple spots and as a result of that Fiala scored 76% of his 23 goals from that location. Now, fast-forward to this season, Fiala is shooting 73% of his shots from the outside of the faceoff circle or right on top of the net, near the trapezoid area. Not that you shouldn’t shoot there, but by shooting exclusively from this spot, you put your shot at an awkward angle that makes the goalie’s job much easier. Now, to compare this to the rest of the league, in the areas that account for 73% of Fiala’s shots, the rest of the league only shoots from those areas 39% of the time. Since when one thing changes, another does as well. Let’s go back to that mid to high slot area, the rest of the league shots from that location more than two times more than Fiala this year, and also worth mentioning is that 53% of all goals scored this year come from that location.
Now like I said, Fiala is trending upward and has reclaimed his spot on the Turris and Smith line for the time being. As long as he does not lose momentum and he is able to remain on that spot for the rest of the year, then he should be able to salvage the poor start this year and make this season into something that leads to a nice pay raise in the near future.