Wild’s Fiala setting records, broadening his game in a career year

Kevin Fiala took a break from filling the net with pucks, but the Wild didn't stop churning out goals.

Fiala just changed positions in the production line.

"I try to pass, too, sometimes," he said with a smile.

Whether he's been the playmaker or finisher, the outcome recently has been the same: Fiala has been a factory for goals, helping propel the Wild to one of its most impressive stretches of the season.

After his record-setting, five-assist performance Friday in the 6-3 rout of the Kraken at Xcel Energy Center, Fiala led the NHL in goals (nine), assists (12) and points (21) since April 8 while the Wild went 7-0-2 to post a franchise high in wins (50) and points (107).

This tear has already sealed his best season in the league, and Fiala is on the brink of adding another milestone when the Wild visits Nashville — Fiala's former team — on Sunday.

But a flashy uptick isn't all the 25-year-old winger has accomplished.

He's also turned into the multi-dimensional talent he's wanted to become.

"That was my goal, to be an all-around player," Fiala said, "to get more reliable and be more of a team player as well."

Without a doubt, Fiala's scoring surge has already claimed the trademark for this season.

Here's why:

Not only is he a 30-goal scorer for the first time, currently sitting at 32 in his fourth season with the Wild following a trade from the Predators, but Fiala's also established career highs in assists (50) and points (82). He's only one point away from tying Marian Gaborik for the second most ever in a Wild season, with Gaborik's 83 the franchise record for 14 years until Kirill Kaprizov passed it earlier this month. Kaprizov is the team's first 100-point player, reaching 101 on Friday after a four-point effort.

"Very proud and feel honored to maybe break that record," Fiala said of Gaborik's clip. "It's a lot of points."

His active nine-game point streak isn't even his longest of the season. Fiala had a 12-game run from Dec. 20-Feb. 2 that tied the Wild record. The Swiss native, drafted 11th overall by Nashville in 2014, also has multiple points in four straight games, one shy of his career high.Aside from becoming the first Wild player to tally five assists in a game, Fiala is also the first to register four assists and four points in a period. The five points he totaled on Friday were also a personal best. Overall, Fiala is third on the team in goals and second in scoring with four games to go in the regular season. His seven game-winners are tied for first on the Wild.

"I'm really happy for him," Kaprizov said in Russian through an interpreter. "I'm glad his game has taken off, and he's had some really key moments in the last couple games coming through clutch. He's peaking at the right time, so generally really happy for him.

"He's on a hot streak, and I hope it continues."

Skill is his calling card, but Fiala is also skating when the Wild isn't desperate for offense.

After occasional looks last season, he's become a go-to penalty killer this season and has been utilized late in the action when the team's trying to preserve a lead.

And Fiala, who is a restricted free agent on an expiring contract after the team signed him to a one-year, $5.1 million deal last offseason, has done well with the responsibility.

Of the 60 goals the Wild has surrendered on the penalty kill, Fiala and linemate Frederick Gaudreau have been on the ice for only five. The two also combined for Fiala's first career shorthanded goal April 14 at Dallas.

"He's so speedy and strong, and he make good reads with his stick, too," Gaudreau said. "So, it's easy to play with him on the penalty kill."

In the Wild's upcoming playoff series against St. Louis, the team will need goals, but it'll also require smart decision-making all over the ice.

Throughout the season and especially lately, Fiala has provided both for the Wild.

"When you see Kevin play with this much confidence, when he doesn't really stress about things, he's so good," Joel Eriksson Ek said. "You watch him and go 'Oh, my God. How can he do that?' It's really impressive for him. When he has this confidence, he doesn't really force plays and that's when he plays his best."