Minnesota Wild: Analytics point to a career year for Kevin Fiala

Continuing the installment of Minnesota Wild Analytics. This series will preview each Wild player’s roles for the upcoming season and explain what analytics suggest for their 2021-22 season. Today we will cover Kevin Fiala.

Previously at Gone Puck Wild, we discussed the 2021-22 season for the Minnesota Wild and how the team would rank in the NHL based on analytics. As well as, the first article of this series on Kirill Kaprizov’s sophomore season. Now, we will discuss the role of three-year Wild vet Kevin Fiala.

Looking at some of the top teams in the league, you will notice a similar trend. Each team has two to three legitimate superstars. Colorado has Nate MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar. Tampa Bay has Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Victor Hedman, to name some. Vegas has Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty and Shea Theodore. Even a team like the Islanders has Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, and Ryan Pulock.

That being said, Kaprizov and Fiala have yet to have legitimate superstar caliber seasons. But they seem to be trending that way.

The last time the Wild had two superstars on their team was the 2008-2009 season with Marian Gaborik and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Now, some could argue PMB wasn’t a superstar but that’s a topic for another day.

Minnesota Wild: Fiala’s role

Believe it or not but Fiala didn’t play a whole lot of minutes at even strength. He only averaged around 13 minutes a night at 652.78 TOL in 50 games. The native of Switzerland logged 152 power-play minutes, putting him right up there with Kaprizov for the highest power-play totals.

In terms of Fiala’s 2021-2022 season, I would imagine he gets more ice time. Thirteen minutes a night is not a Top  6 forward, you would be looking more in the 15-17 minute range.

With Wild center Joel Eriksson Ek having had such a big 2020 campaign, I would imagine he would get the chance to play on a line with either Kaprizov or Fiala. This puts Fiala in the mix of the Top 6 and likely a role he stays in the whole year.

What do the analytics say?

Analytics say Fiala needs more ice time and  it is true,

Fiala ranked second on the Wild in xGF, behind newly extended Joel Eriksson Ek. The 25-year-old winger only trailed Eriksson Ek in Corsi for with a 49.48 CF.

Not to mention, Fiala ranked first on the Wild in three individual expected offensive stats. A 1.2 ixG/60 (Individual Expected Goals Created), 16.12 iFF/60 (Any unblocked shot attempt by the player, outside of the shootout), and a 11.5 iSF/60 (another individual shot metric)

What do these stats tell us? Well, Fiala picked up 20 goals in 50 games for the Wild while averaging roughly 13 minutes a night. Taking Fiala’s 16.93 ixGF and scaling it to averaging 15 minutes a night for the full season, you would’ve seen Fiala score four more goals, given him a total of 24 goals in 50 games.

Assuming Fiala plays the whole season in a Top 6 role while logging 15 minutes a night, you can use his ixGF from the 50 games he played last season along with his 844.98 TOL and scare it to an 82 game season with around 1,300 TOL.

One can predict Fiala to score 29 goals in a full 82 game season. It would be a safe bet to say  Fiala is about to have a career year in 2021.

Final Thoughts

The Minnesota Wild have the possibility of having two 30 goal scorers on their 2021-2022 roster. Which would be the fourth time in franchise history, Marian Gaborik and Brian Rolston did it in back-to-back-to-back years from 2005-2008.

If Fiala does have his career year, you can bet he will be asking for a long-term deal, and rightfully so. It will be interesting to see how this season plays out.

All stats courtesy of evolving hockey and hockey reference.