In British ice hockey right now, there’s one name on everyone’s lips. That is, of course, Liam Kirk, who’s in the process of edging closer to his dream of making the NHL.
Kirk continues to work hard, but the real question is: does he have a genuine shot at the NHL, or will the ask simply prove to be too much for the man from Maltby?
The Story So Far
Since being drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in 2018, the bar’s been set high, mostly by Kirk himself. Impressively, he established himself as the first English-raised and trained player to be selected in the NHL draft, as this is not a hockey hotbed that usually sees players drafted into the NHL.
Fast forward three years and the chances of making the NHL seem to be even better for Kirk now than they were in 2018: through more playing experience and gratuitous hard work, his chances have improved considerably. Undoubtedly, the hype has always surrounded Kirk, but as each week and month goes by, that hype appears to be well-placed.
The Positives for Kirk
The biggest career booster for Kirk came this summer when the Arizona Coyotes signed him to an entry-level deal, which brought him into the organisation, allowing him to progress through the farm system and will hopefully enable him to progress onto the NHL.
Interestingly, as of October 7th, the latest Betway NHL season betting odds show the Coyotes are at outright odds of 150/1 to take the Stanley Cup for the season ahead. In addition, they’re priced at 150/1 to be titled the Central Division Winner for 2021-2022. Ordinarily, these dismal odds would be considered a bad omen for most new players.
However, the side are actually in the process of rebuilding their franchise and that could prove to be beneficial for Kirk as the Coyotes will likely be looking to give up-and-comers a chance as they seek to find their stars of the future. Given his excellent performances for Team GB this summer Kirk is more likely to be given a chance in Arizona than most other NHL franchises.
That Ice Hockey World Championship couldn’t have come at a better time for Kirk: the 2020-21 OHL season had been cancelled forcing him to play elsewhere, Kirk found himself back playing in Sheffield, at the other side of the world to the Arizona scouts he needed to impress and his NHL dream seemed to take a hit. Nonetheless, Pool A put him up against some of the best in the world, including some NHL players. That didn’t slow him down as he clearly demonstrated that he belonged at that level, and not only that, but he could take a game and win it by himself for Team GB.
The 21-year-old scored twice against Belarus to give Team GB their first regulation win in the top pool at the World Championships since 1962. The team’s achieving something very special at the moment, and Kirk is the man driving them forward.
Is There a Time Limit for Kirk to Play NHL Hockey?
In terms of his current contract, Kirk is believed to be signed to the Arizona Coyotes for the next three seasons. He will play an integral part in their system, more than likely starting in the AHL and going from there.
If things go well, he’s one step away from an NHL call-up, but if he struggles, he may find himself with limited AHL opportunities, or worse, being loaned to another league. This could be the ECHL if he’s insistent on staying in North America, but a big European league is also an option.
In terms of where Arizona are heading, Kirk may not get a better chance to play in the NHL than he will over the next two years. At present, he’s with a franchise desperately in need of inspiration and clearly looking for players who can contribute towards their success in the future.
The Coyotes aren’t interested in picking up experienced players: the franchise is fully focusing on the unblooded players right now. In that sense, there’s nowhere better to be. According to AZ Central, Kirk’s third rookie development camp with the team is coming up ahead of the new season, his first since signing a deal with the team.
Nailing down an opening night NHL roster is highly unlikely, the chances to play in the biggest league in the world are likely to come further down the line. Nevertheless, Kirk now finds himself in front of exactly the right people. Those in charge of the franchise are looking for fresh talent and Kirk will be playing, probably in the AHL, in front of scouts and coaches who are reporting to those running the show.
The future is looking bright for this British superstar.