Kevin Fiala has been on the ice late in the game when only one goal separates both teams.

He's also in action when there's a power play.

But his intent in these situations isn't to score.

The winger with a nose for the net is actually trying to prevent offense.

"I just think I can do more," Fiala said. "I want more, and I think I can do it, too. I think I'm one of those guys that wants to be always better at something else."

Since joining the franchise in 2019, the 25-year-old has been the Wild's top producer and is coming off back-to-back 20-goal seasons. But his repertoire is expanding.

Fiala is getting the chance to leverage his playmaking skills in a new way, by defending other teams when the Wild is outnumbered, and he appreciates the opportunity to show there's more to his game than goals.

"The best players in the world, they do everything," Fiala said. "They're not just [offensive]. When I think about myself, that's going to be my next step and be [an] all-around type of guy.

"That's my goal for this season and for the future."

This evolution started to take shape last season.

After barely crossing paths with the penalty kill in his first year with the Wild following a trade from Nashville, Fiala began to take reps with the PK. Now, he's averaging more than a minute and a half in shorthanded ice time per game; that is fourth-most among Wild forwards.

And he's had a knack for it, being on the ice for only one of the seven power-play goals the Wild has surrendered five games into the season.

His strategy is a blend of defensive positioning and offensive instincts: Fiala's following the Wild's structure for how the team wants to set up on the PK, but he's also utilizing his smarts to anticipate what the other team will try to do.

That's what makes him a unique penalty killer for Wild coach Dean Evason.

"When you're on the PK, you've got to be really good at reading guys," said winger Marcus Foligno, one of the Wild's shorthanded specialists. "The guys are so good at being deceiving and looking off passes or looking off guys, and Kev is one of those guys that does that a lot and that's why he's so good offensively. He kind of has that side of it where he's got a good stick, and he can really skate, too. It seems like he's not that close to you and then he can be right on you.

"He's also a threat, too, where you've got to be careful with a guy like that because he can go for a shorthanded goal. Sometimes that kind of plays in the mind of power plays when you have a guy like that."

Intercepting the puck and going the other way isn't Fiala's No. 1 priority on the penalty kill, but it is on his radar.

"My first option is always going to be get it down, get it deep," said Fiala, who has never scored shorthanded in his NHL career. "That's the job. My job is not to score on the PK. It's going to defend. But if there's going to be opportunity to have some time and take some time off them or even have a chance to score a goal, I'm going to take it for sure."

In nearly 140 games with the Wild, Fiala has delivered plenty of goals — at 5-on-5, on the power play and in overtime. He has a goal and two assists already this season and just recently eclipsed the 200-point plateau after signing a one-year, $5.1 million contract in the offseason.

“The best players in the world, they do everything. They're not just [offensive]. When I think about myself, that's going to be my next step and be [an] all-around type of guy. That's my goal for this season and for the future.”
Kevin Fiala

No one on the team has scored more than him (47 goals and 104 points) since he began suiting up for the Wild.

With a track record like that, offense could be Fiala's only focus. But it's not.

"Nobody's perfect," he said. "Everybody has to work on all the things. For me, it was just very important to be [a] reliable player that Dean can trust me in that situation so I could play whenever."