After three days of boot camp, Kevin Fiala’s reign began in Los Angeles.
We all knew about the upcoming hype, we knew what Kings gave up to bring him to L.A., and we knew what the team had committed to him financially to start a long-term relationship. Now, we know exactly how the team looks at him, and it’s a hopeful left winger from the front line.
Viala skated on that senior unit every day of the first three days of camp, linking up with Anzi Kopetar and Adrian Quimby in what could be a dynamic, offensively talented streak.
“It felt like we were well connected [in the scrimmages]Viala said about his new streak. “It felt like we connected well, we were thinking about the game similarly, we were thinking about the game quickly and we all want the disc, we want to create it. On the defensive side, the three of us are reliable. Now, it’s a good combination.
Kopitar now has two 30-goal scorers on his flank, giving the first-passing center a pair of options she can shoot and skate the ball with.
Is this an adjustment to the veteran’s scoring front?
“Maybe it’s not the purpose side of things, it’s the speed side of things I’m going to have to get up and run with, but I’m not too concerned,” he said with a smile.
Viala offers a package that Kings haven’t had in the suite for a long time.
“It allows another level of offensive play to come into the picture,” Kings coach Todd McClellan said. “He completes a little more line. We have a starting point, I don’t know where he’s going from here, if that line is going to blend in or tangle or if he has to play with someone else but we’re starting at a point. On the first day he did a really good job of acclimatising. With him, he understands how we want to play, there are some similarities between two previous teams and us and that is comforting.”
The hope internally is that Fiala will be the perfect third piece alongside Kopitar and Kempe on a streak that saw Kempe explode to hit 35 goals last season. Coming out of the season with over 30 goals himself, Villala made a breakthrough of his own during his 2021-22 campaign in Minnesota. Now, armed with a new role on a new team, Fiala’s eyes are on tapping with Kopitar and Kempe on a new streak.
Fiala suddenly said that he had never played for a Kopetar ability center in his hockey career until now. While he was part of some good teams in his career, and had some strong teammates, he rarely had the opportunity to play on the first line, with a future Hall of Famer skating at his side. He did produce though, despite the icy time dropping further into the second or third line player realm.
“Just having a colleague like that to me means a lot,” Fiala said. “He’s gone through it, he’s number one, he’s won some Stanley Cups and I’m looking forward to him, it’s a pleasure to play with him.”
Through Kopitar’s lens, it’s not overnight that all three players will suddenly intertwine, but Fiala’s offensive gifts were evident for the new quarterback.
New or old line, Kopitar understands that there is always an adjustment period, even when it comes to starting a new season. Even taking a few skates together, Kopitar is well aware of the caliber of the player added by the Kings, which only heightened his enthusiasm for entering a new season.
“I know him from playing against him, he’s obviously very cunning and he has a really good shot,” Kopetar said. “It’s going to take a few days to really get to know him on the ice, to see what the timing and the chemistry is, where it takes us. I like what I’m seeing now, so it must be very interesting.”
On the other side of the line is a familiar face. While Viala is Swiss, he grew up playing in Sweden, playing in similar circles to Kimbe.
Viala previously stated that the one thing that impressed Los Angeles was the chance to play with a talented group of European players, which could make the transition easier for him as he changes teams. Both first-round picks during the 2014 NHL Draft, Fiala and Kempe have a bit more history of the newly acquired striker with the bulk of his new teammates.
“We used to play against each other a lot you know, he played in Sweden and we didn’t really play for the same team or anything but we always knew each other, we played against each other a lot and it’s hell I’ve been watching it since we were recruited in the same,” Kembe said of Viala. year, it has been in Nashville and [Minnesota] He was one of their best players. Especially last year he had a great year, playing on the second streak with nearly 90 points is impressive. I think we are all very excited to have him here. I think he’s very excited to be here as well and hopefully we can get some good things out of him.”
Although the real test will come when the opponent wears a different jersey, and when matches count for points, Villala showed some exciting flashes early in the training camp. Speed and skill, sure, but he used those gadgets on an aggressive manor, getting to the front earlier in the day when he forced a deep spin into the attack zone, drove into the net and used a silk motion to bury a shot with his back on the top shelf. Jonathan Quick.
That showed the full package that Villala brings, and the challenge he’s playing against is currently presenting to those in Group B.
Although they’ve gotten into squabbles here over the past few days, defender Drew Doughty certainly wouldn’t miss playing against his new teammate in a real game.
“I didn’t like playing against him,” Doughty admitted. “He’s a good player. Fast, good shot, smart player too, uses his body well. I’m sure he can tell you too, we’ve had some good fights between me and him over the years… I’m really excited to have him, really, really excited.” First What I said to him when we traded with him was that I’m happy to be with you now and not against you and he said the same thing. It will make our team that much better.”
As McClellan said on the first day of camp, the players know best, and as the number one defender and talented offensive player, Doughty and Viala have earned each other’s respect through competitive battles over the years.
Now, with Fiala on their side, it seemed to be a weapon at the Kings’ disposal as they looked to take the next step in the operation. Expectations for the Kings as a team this season are high and Villa is no exception. Acquired for a significant amount through trade and is expected to be a top-tier product for a team with strong expectations.
His head coach knows what kind of player he can be, and seems pretty confident seeing that thought come true on the ice this season.
“We are excited to host him,” McClellan added. “We weren’t trading with him, we wouldn’t have expected him if we didn’t think he was going to be that player.”