Liam Kirk is one of the most intriguing NHL hopefuls. Despite his recent setbacks, he has continued to make progress and produce. Picked 189th from the Arizona Coyotes, the flashy forward has impressed NHL scouts with his shot, hands and speed. In addition to his skill, he is also from a non-traditional hockey market of Great Britain.
Who is Liam Kirk?
Hailing from England, the hockey bug bit Kirk’s family after attending Sheffield Steelers games. “My oldest brother decided to play hockey and as you do, with older siblings, I just copied him, and it went on from there”. Kirk humbly explained his origins.
Liam would eventually follow his dream and play for the Steelers and become a star in the EIHL. “In the first few years that I was playing hockey I kind of had the dream to play for the Sheffield Steelers but as you get older, you realize how big the hockey world is”
His play would attract scouts from North America where he would move across the Atlantic to play in the Ontario Hockey League. After a very successful stent in North American junior hockey, he would be drafted in the 7th round by the Arizona Coyotes becoming the first English born and trained player to be selected by an NHL team.
Kirk is more than just a novelty. The 23-year-old forward possesses a sick wrist and slap shot as well as speed. Smaller than most players, weighing only roughly 160 lbs., this agile forward can slip through defensive coverage like a snake through an obstacle course. In addition to his smooth serpentine movement, he has also handled the spotlight very well. Kirk has Great Britan enthusiastic about his potential NHL stardom.
Kirk has had success in almost of the levels he has played for throughout his young career. While playing two seasons for the Peterborough Petes in the OHL, he has scored 47 goals and tallied 97 points in 110 games played. This would obviously gather scouts’ attention and would lead to him being drafted.
Furthermore, in the 2021 World Championships Kirk would finish 6th in total points scoring while playing under the British flag. Additionally, he would score 7 goals in 7 games where he would co-lead the tournament in goal scoring Canada’s Andrew Mangiapane. Adding to his impressive tournament, he would tie Jason Robertson in points scoring at the end of the tournament.
Professional North American Hockey
Although he made very limited number of appearances in the AHL, he showed signs of positive development before his season ending ACL injury. In 9 games he would notch 2 goals and tally 3 total points in his short stint. He was on pace to have a respectable 26-point season.
After only playing in 1 game in the AHL during the 2022-23 season, Kirk would be sent down to the Atlanta Gladiators. He would excel as he would score 11 points in 14 games with 5 goals. His positive impression would leave a lasting mark on the coaching staff.
“He was a class act from my eyes. Bought in and was a professional.” Stated Jeff Pyle, head coach of the Gladiators.
Pyle would continue to say that Kirk had the talent to play in higher levels of hockey.
In 2023 Kirk would be loaned to Jukurit in the Finnish Liiga. Despite only playing 25 games, Kirk would go on to score a solid 19 points with 7 goals. He would also finish the season with a +5 rating and 5 penalty minutes.
Some would criticize this move stating that moving to the Liiga was a step backwards, however Kirk kept a very positive outlook stating that it was a “great opportunity to go and develop in one of the best leagues in the world”.
Kirk’s development has hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Kirk was preparing for the upcoming games, the OHL season would be cancelled due to the disease.
Adding to his rocky development, the Englishman would suffer a season ending ACL tear in November of 2021 which would sideline him for the rest of the year. At the time of his injury, Kirk was making his first appearances in the AHL.
Due to the extent of his injury and the pandemic, Kirk had missed quite a bit of time which could have been used to prepare for NHL hockey.
Long Range Potential
Kirk shows a lot of promise in his game. He has the ability to score goals with ease with his imposing slapshot and wrist shot. In addition to his excellent shot, his speed and hands add to his offensive ability. In order to be successful, he must bulk up and be able to withstand heavy blows. Furthermore, his age and his entry level contract are two concerns. He is currently on the final year of his contract, and it is unknown what Kirk’s status may be in the Coyote front office. Also, there are many European players from later drafts who are considerably younger than Kirk that have made their NHL debut. In addition, his knee injuries and the COVID season has hampered his development.
Overall, if he can bulk up and break through into the NHL, he has the potential to be a top 9 forward. Moreover, because of his unique origins and his humble and likeable demeanor, he has the makings of a possible fan favorite.