While the Wild was flying back to Minnesota after getting eliminated from the playoffs in Vegas, Kevin Fiala wrote down how he wanted to improve next season.
• Be consistent.
• Compete in the defensive zone.
• Enhance his shot and score more goals.
"I'm going to work hard," Fiala said, "and I will be better next year."
How Fiala finished the season could set him up for the progress he seeks.
Despite scoring only once against the Golden Knights before the Wild was ousted from the first round in seven games, the 24-year-old looked much more like the complete player he's striving to become, especially in comparison to how the playoffs went for him the previous season.
"Last year I scored more goals, but I feel this year I played a great playoff series," Fiala said. "I had a lot of chances. I could have scored a lot of goals I feel like. Didn't go in, but I really felt like I was playing probably my best hockey."
Fiala was more productive last August when the Wild was in the Edmonton playoff bubble taking on Vancouver in the qualifying round.
He had a team-high three goals, helping the Wild to a split through two games of the best-of-five. But Fiala went goalless the rest of the series while racking up four penalties as the Canucks tested his discipline. Three of those infractions came in Game 3 before the Wild was knocked out in Game 4.
This year against Vegas, Fiala had plenty of reasons to be frustrated. He was getting off shots, including an impressive eight in Game 2 alone, but the puck was staying out of the net.
Not until Game 6 did Fiala finally capitalize, on the power play, and he finished the series with 22 shots — the most by a Wild player.
But while he was searching for offense, Fiala stayed focused. He committed only one penalty the entire postseason, a slashing call in the first period of Game 1.
"I was fast," Fiala said. "I was competitive on pucks and everything was good, just not the result. That's how it is, and I'm going to move forward and going to work hard in the summer."
That's not all Fiala will have going on this offseason.
He is up for a new contract after getting through a two-year, $6 million deal he signed with the Wild in 2019. Fiala will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
"Ever since I got traded here, I love it here," said Fiala, who was acquired from Nashville for Mikael Granlund in the second half of the 2018-19 season. "I want to win here. Let's see what happens."
And after another effective season in which Fiala ranked second on the team in goals (20) and points (40), he is helping stoke the optimism about the Wild's future.
"There's something special in this team I feel like," Fiala said. "Everybody wants to win, wants to do everything for each other to win.
"We had some up and downs all season, but we always stuck together. That's why I love this team. We never quit."