Nick Bonino has noticed a change in Kevin Fiala.
"He's become a better dancer," Bonino said. "I don't know if you've seen his Instagram. He's a TikTok star."
But that's not the only difference Bonino has picked up on since reuniting with Fiala in Minnesota after the two were previously teammates with Nashville.
Bonino has also detected more confidence in the right winger, a swagger when Fiala has the puck on his stick.
"Every time he's on the ice, he's a threat all the time," said Bonino, who was acquired from the Predators in an offseason trade. "It's been fun to watch him here and play on a line with him."
In the lead-up to last season's March shutdown, Fiala was one of the NHL's most skilled scorers, and that efficiency spilled over to the playoffs against Vancouver. His challenge this season will be to duplicate that impact for the Wild while under the watchful eye of his competition — a test Fiala is eager to ace.
"I have to be ready, and I will be," Fiala said this week after a training camp practice. "That's going to be my next step, to be better mentally and be mentally strong so if anybody tries get under my skin I still have to be focused and stay out of the box and help the team as best as I can."
Fiala has been under the microscope before; the Canucks checked him tightly in that qualifying-round series in the Edmonton bubble.
And while Fiala still managed to break free, tallying three goals and an assist before the Wild was eliminated from the best-of-five in four games, Vancouver did restrict him — drawing 10 minutes' worth of penalties against him. Four were for roughing, and Fiala went to the box twice in the third period of Game 3.
During the series, Fiala apologized to the team, and he believes he can improve his discipline by focusing on the group.
"I just have to think team first and put my ego behind," said Fiala, who had 23 goals and a team-high 54 points last season. "I think then it's going to be much easier, and my teammates are going to help me, for sure."
Showing more restraint to not get baited into taking unnecessary penalties can help keep Fiala on the ice, but the Wild also doesn't want the 24-year-old to turn off the spark that fuels his offensive style.
"He knows that guys are going to get him off his game," said Marcus Foligno, the Wild's resident agitator. "That's something, as a guy that has to shut down top guys, that's what you have to do. And it's tough. Some guys don't like to be talked down to or hit after the whistle, things like that. He's going to be a guy that's targeted, but he has to play with emotion, too.
"We don't want Kev to shut out everything. Sometimes you get skilled guys ticked off and they become even more skillful. So, that's the stuff that we want Kev just to balance."
Cue his linemates.
Veterans like Bonino and Marcus Johansson, who skated in Friday's intrasquad scrimmage at Xcel Energy Center and have been skating with Fiala at camp, can be mileposts for Fiala. Both have already gone through the NHL's learning curve, and the stability they offer through their experience can ground Fiala as he embarks on a season in which he won't fly under the radar.
"It's a good thing that he has that frustration, as well, because it shows that he wants to do well and that he wants to get better," Johansson said. "But you gotta pick your times when you do get mad and I think if he can stay positive and keep his confidence, I think the sky is the limit for him.
"He's such a good player. We'll just have to talk and communicate on the ice. And I think if we do that, I think we'll see less of that."