The Minnesota Wild, in one of their best positions for contention in years, made a change during the offseason. After experiencing a career-high, and second-best total in Wild franchise history, winger Kevin Fiala was traded.
Due to his status as a restricted free agent, and an apparent distance in coming to a contract extension, Fiala was moved to the Los Angeles Kings in the offseason. In return, the Wild received a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft (used on Swedish winger Liam Ohgren) and defensive prospect Brock Faber.
The Impact of Fiala’s Departure
Fiala had come into his own as a member of the Wild. His 2019-20 season was a coming-out party, matching his career-high in goals (23) while setting new marks in assists (31) and points (54). The 2020-21 season was a weird one for everyone, though Fiala did post 40 points in 50 games.
However, it would be the 2021-22 season that saw new marks across the board for Fiala. The 26-year-old winger hit new career-highs in goals (33), assists (52), and points (85), finishing only behind superstar winger Kirill Kaprizov both for the year and in the franchise scoring annals.
This leaves the question of what kind of impact his departure will have. It kind of goes without saying that you cannot lose your second-best scorer, a young winger coming off of their best season, without feeling it.
Filling in that offense will be difficult, though there is still some hope. There are a few prospects within the system – namely center Marco Rossi – whom the franchise expects to step in and fill that role shortly.
So, there is also a dependency on other youngsters to step up and pull their weight. How Faber fits into that equation remains to be seen.
— Brock Faber (@Brockfaber14) October 7, 2020
Brock Faber’s Future
When it comes to defensive prospects, the future is tough to pick. Historically, the position takes some time to develop or makes an instantaneous impact. Faber, a second-round pick (45th overall) by the Kings in 2020, looks to be the former.
At 6’1”, 200lbs, he has decent size but isn’t overly big for a defenseman. It is his skating, however, that made him a noteworthy pick. He is an upper-echelon skater, doing a tremendous job to keep his balance and avoid being knocked off the puck in the rush.
In his end, he isn’t particularly physical but he does a great job of using his stick to guide forwards to the outside, cutting off their angle as they enter the zone. If anything, he fits the mold that Minnesota has set for its defensemen: smooth skating, defensively sound, all-around players.
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) June 29, 2022
Can Faber Help Offset the Departure of Fiala?
The Wild took the long-term approach when dealing with Fiala in the summer. It is clear that they were not prepared to meet Fiala’s price tag (he signed a seven-year, $55.125 million extension immediately after being traded to Los Angeles), especially given that the 2021-22 season was his only true “great” season.
With him gone, it leaves the question of what they got in return. Their pick, Ohgren, isn’t likely to see the NHL for at least two or three years. So the focus in the short-term at least will be on Faber.
The Wild are deep at defense right now, headed up by Matthew Dumba, Jonas Brodin, and Jared Spurgeon. They also have promising young defenseman Calen Addison, who spent last year with the Iowa Wild of the AHL, looking to make a full-time impact in 2022-23.
It is already known that Faber will return to the University of Minnesota for the coming season. Past that, he will likely need some time with Iowa unless there are massive changes to the Minnesota blueline (like Dumba being traded, for instance).
Moving forward, he will be expected to bring something a lot different than what Fiala offered to the franchise. Fiala was offense-first and a forward. Faber is going to make his name in the NHL as a defensive defenseman.
When worlds collide 😏
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) June 29, 2022
He has the skating and the skills to be a top-four defenseman in the NHL. But with his lack of offensive game, he could also wind up being a bottom-pairing defender as well. He has a very good defensive game and is the kind of skater that thrives in today’s game.
On paper, he compares favorably with Edmonton defenseman Ethan Bear. Both are great skaters and though Bear is the better offensively right now, Faber has the potential to get there.
The move won’t show immediate dividends but there is the potential that Faber could become a stalwart, first in Iowa, then in Minnesota. But for now, he will return to college hockey to develop.
Credits on Featured Image: Bri Weldon on Flickr