When the Los Angeles Kings traded for Kevin Fiala last summer they were getting a star offensive talent who dominated at 5v5 the season before. Expectations were sky-high for Fiala who was bringing an element the team was missing. Elite skill.
Even with those lofty expectations, Fiala was maybe better than most had expected. He wasn’t just a great offensive talent, he was one of the league’s best playmakers in 2022-23.
Recently JFresh on Twitter posted a ranking of the league’s top passers according to his “passing score” and Fiala showed up at number two behind only Mitch Marner.
Who were the top playmakers in 2022-23 at 5v5?
Using AllThreeZones tracked passing data weighed by pass type, here are the top 40: pic.twitter.com/xcce6g8PE5
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) July 28, 2023
While I expected Fiala to show up well on this list, placing two was a bit of a surprise. Off the back of this I jumped onto Corey Sznjader’s AllThreeZones.com to dive into Fiala’s playmaking and boy was it impressive.
Fiala’s Playmaking Metrics:
I mainly focused on Fiala’s primary shot assists per 60, scoring chance assists per 60 and his high-danger passes per 60 and he was in elite company for all three.
Primary shot assists are pretty simple, it’s passes that lead directly to a shot on goal. In this metric, there were just seven players better than Fiala last season. Artemi Panarin, Matt Barzal, Nikita Kucherov, Nathan MacKinnon, Sidney Crosby, Mitch Marner and Connor McDavid all scored higher, with McDavid the only player to have a significant advantage over Fiala.
As I moved into scoring chance assists per 60 — passes that lead directly to a scoring chance — Fiala looks even better. In this category, there were just five players above Fiala. McDavid, Marner and Panarin remained above him with William Nylander and Timo Meier rounding out the group.
Then there are high-danger passes per 60, passes that lead to high-danger chances. In this category, only three players surpassed Fiala, McDavid, Crosby and Brad Marchand. Anthony Duclair was also technically above him but with just 20 games played, I don’t feel that his sample size is big enough.
Just the names Fiala has surrounded himself with stand out. When you’re posting offensive numbers that put you in the company of McDavid, MacKinnon, Kucherov etc. you’re doing something right.
Why This is Important For the Kings
It’s the high-danger passes per 60 that really stand out for me. Yes, creating shots for your linemates is good and so is creating chances, but when you’re routinely teeing up your linemates with grade-A scoring chances, that’s huge.
Looking ahead to next season, Fiala is expected to play with newcomer Pierre-Luc Dubois who scored at a 30-goal pace last season. So, I looked at some of Dubois’ stats on AllThreeZones to see how big an upgrade Fiala would be for Dubois.
I was surprised to find out that Dubois scored his 27 goals in 73 games while taking just 0.63 shots of high-danger chances per 60. Meaning Dubois wasn’t getting the grade-A looks most high-end goal scorers do.
Compare Dubois number to two Kings players — well one King and one former Kings now — Adrian Kempe and Gabe Vilardi. Kempe scored his 41 goals off 2.1 high-danger shots per 60 and Vilardi 1.6. If Dubois can get his numbers up to where even Vilardi’s at that’s huge for Los Angeles.
Of course, it would be oversimplifying things to say that Dubois will absolutely get more high-danger chances next season and therefore score more goals. Some of that is on him to get into those areas of the ice, but if he does, Fiala will find him.
The eye test showed that Fiala was an elite creator last season and the stats back that up too. I’ve said it quite a few times since the trade, but if he and Dubois find chemistry the Pacific Division could be in trouble.
Not to mention the possibility of Fiala playing with Arthur Kaliyev, who I still believe is the best pure shooter in the organization. If Fiala’s teeing Kaliyev up with multiple high-danger chances per 60, 20 goals is a minimum.
Rob Blake’s wanted to add elite skill when trading for Fiala and he got exactly that.