Tag: Austin Watson

Montreal Canadiens v Nashville Predators

Looking to make the leap: Kevin Fiala

There are a handful of Nashville Predators prospects hoping to make the leap in 2015-16.

Kevin Fiala distinguishes himself by saying that he will pull it off, as Preds GM David Poile noted at a fan gathering back in June.

“At the end-of-the-year meetings when [Head Coach] Peter Laviolette and I are talking to players, we’re usually the ones doing 90 percent of the talking,” Poile said. “So we did the talking to Kevin and then he says, ‘What do I need to do, I’m going to be playing for the Nashville Predators next season. I’m not going to [AHL affiliate] Milwaukee, I’m going to be playing [in Nashville].’”

Those are some bold words, yet the 19-year-old may just sense a pattern forming.

As the 11th pick of the 2014 NHL Draft, Fiala experienced quite the 2014-15 season. It began in Sweden with Jonkoping, but the Predators brought Fiala over to the AHL in January. He performed nicely at both levels (including scoring 20 points in 33 games with the Milwaukee Admirals) and even saw a game of regular season and playoff action with the Predators.

Poile believed that Fiala would benefit from the jump, noting the development process for Swedish sensation Filip Forsberg.

” … By getting a head start on the acclimation process to the North American style of play and smaller rinks, we expect Kevin – like Filip Forsberg two seasons ago – will continue his growth as a dynamic offensive prospect,” Poile said in a release when Fiala came to the U.S. early in 2015.

The pedigree and swagger are there in droves, yet opportunity might not strike.

On the Forecheck spotlights the uphill battle that Fiala (not to mention other intriguing young players like Austin Watson and Colton Sissons) face cracking the Predators’ forward lineup:

Even with shipping Taylor Beck to Toronto, there are too many regular NHLers on the bottom two lines to accommodate the rookies in waiting. The bridge that separates the prospects from the NHL is about ready to collapse under all the weight of those loitering on it.

It won’t be easy, especially if Poile & Co. prefer to see Fiala get big minutes in the AHL rather than a depth role in the NHL, but at least Fiala isn’t going about his business meekly.

With or without Shea Weber, Nashville has big questions

Martin Erat, Shea Weber

While Nashville GM David Poile ponders whether or not to match the 14-year offer sheet put forth by Philly to captain Shea Weber, he’s got his hands full fixing the team one way or another no matter what.

Nashville’s troubles abound at every position other than in goal, but on defense life could be miserable.

Losing Ryan Suter is hard enough to manage but losing Weber would make the job for veterans like Hal Gill and Kevin Klein as well as youngsters like Roman Josi, Jonathon Blum, and Ryan Ellis that much more difficult. Production from guys like Suter and Weber is nearly impossible to replicate and asking the guys left behind to make up for that is asking perhaps too much. At least Barry Trotz’s system is still in place to help them out.

If Weber stays that’s a huge relief to this entire group, but the issues surrounding the rest of the team are immense and for Weber, it’ll make him feel like he’s taken a trip back in time.

Offensively, the Preds are still hurting. They’ve parted ways with playoff distractions Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn as Radulov headed back to the KHL and Kostitsyn is a free agent. Both of them were late season additions, but on a team that was already offensively lacking, losing guys that can fill the net is no good.

The pressure once again falls on the shoulders of Mike Fisher, Sergei Kostitsyn, Patric Hornqvist, and Martin Erat to score goals. They’re solid but not game-breakers. Youngsters like Craig Smith and potentially 2010 draft pick Austin Watson may get long looks to see if they can spark the team.

Progress has been Nashville’s thing for many seasons, but it’s hard to look forward when things may just be taking a huge step backwards.