The 2023 NHL All-Star game in Sunrise, FL. will see 14 first-time participants take part in the event at FLA Live Arena on Saturday.
One of those first-time picks is St. Gallen, Switzerland native and LA Kings forward Kevin Fiala.
Fiala, 26, has adapted well in year one with his new team, leading the Kings with 53 points in 53 games. He was traded to LA in the off-season after a career year with the Wild, where he scored 85 points in 82 games.
“It’s been great to come into the Kings,” Fiala said Thursday at NHL All-Star Media Day. “The team, the players have been awesome, so it’s been pretty easy to come in… it’s a big family.”
When Fiala takes the ice on Saturday, he will become the sixth Swiss player to play in an NHL All-Star game (Roman Josi, Nico Hischier, Timo Meier, Mark Streit, Jonas Hiller).
Fiala is excited to not only represent the Kings this weekend, but also his home country.
“[It’s] not just for the LA Kings but also for Switzerland,” Fiala said. “Just very excited to be here and [a] dream come true.”
When Fiala was drafted 11th-overall by the Nashville Predators in 2014, he became just the seventh Swiss player to be drafted in the first-round. With the continued growth of hockey in Switzerland, there have been 10 Swiss players drafted in round-one, including Nico Hischier who went number one to the New Jersey Devils in 2017.
Fiala has represented Switzerland on the world stage multiple times, including at the World Juniors and the Ice Hockey World Championships. His biggest moment with the national team came at the 2018 World Championships, when the Swiss just narrowly missed out on a gold medal, taking home silver after losing to Sweden in a shootout.
He says the next objective for Switzerland is to bring home a gold medal.
“It’s a big goal for us to win the gold medal, like you said we’ve been close twice, I’ve been there once,” Fiala said. “It’s a big goal for us to kind of make this the next step.”
Fiala believes that a win at the World Championships could inspire the next generation of Swiss hockey players.
“I think that if we are going to make it, it’s going to help the young guys see that we won the World Championship, so they can do it too and play in the NHL too” he said. “We’re going to grow the game a little more in Switzerland.”
As a first-time All-Star, Fiala got some advice from some of his Kings and Swiss teammates about what to expect this weekend. Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Roman Josi were amongst the guys he spoke to.
“They kind of filled me in, they told me it’s going to be very fun, so I’m looking forward to it.”
While All-Star weekend gives hockey fans an opportunity to see the best players in the league all on the same ice for a few days, the players also get some enjoyment out of the weekend.
Fiala said he is most excited to be around the other players throughout the week.
“Just being here with the guys, getting to know some of [them],” Fiala said. “I don’t know everybody yet so it’ll be fun.”
During Friday’s skill competition, Fiala will be participating in the fastest skater challenge. On Saturday, he will be the sole representative for the Kings on the Pacific Division All-Star team.