It was announced on June 18 that Liam Kirk signed a three-year, entry level contract with the Arizona Coyotes. Kirk recently made hockey headlines with his success on the Great Britain team in the IIHF world championship. He is still, however, relatively unknown to many hockey fans. Let’s take a look at Kirk’s hockey career so far and what could come next for him with the Coyotes.
Journey to the League
Liam Kirk is a 21-year-old forward from Maltby, South Yorkshire, England. He grew up playing for a variety of teams based out of Sheffield, England. Kirk often played in age levels much above his own, but was nonetheless successful. He received his first shot at international play in the 2015-2016 season, representing Great Britain in the U-18 World Junior Championships. The following year, he returned to the U-18 team as the Capitan and was given the chance to play on the U-20 level in the World Juniors. He maintained both of his positions in the 2017-2018 season.
In 2018, Kirk became the first ever player born and trained in England to be drafted to the NHL. He was selected in the seventh round, 189th overall by the Arizona Coyotes. He has since attended both rookie camps and team training camps.
In the 2018-2019 season, Kirk began his tenure with the OHL’s Peterborough Petes. In 63 games he recorded 26 goals and 21 assists. He returned the following season as an Alternate Capitan for the Petes. In 2018-2019 Kirk was also the Capitan for the Great Britain U-20 team in the World Junior Championships and played on the general level at the World Championships.
With the pandemic interrupting international play and the OHL season in both 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, Kirk and other players missed out on valuable playing time. However, Kirk was able to play for the Great Britain team at the IIHF World Championships in May of 2021. In seven games Kirk scored seven goals and recorded two assists. He was one of the top producing players in the tournament, despite his team’s early exit. Kirk was also voted to the tournament’s all-star team by members of various media outlets.
Kirk’s Future With the Coyotes
The Arizona Coyotes have not excelled in recent seasons, but have the ability to improve. With the exception of a few players, the Coyotes are a very young team. The majority of their players are in their players are relatively new to the league and still need time to develop. Kirk, having never played in the NHL, is on the same level as many of the Coyotes current players. He has skill, but still needs to develop at the NHL level. Bringing in a bunch of young, talented players and developing them together gives the possibility of forming a team that can work together well. Since Kirk is around the same stage in his career as many of the current Coyotes, he could fit in well to the process.
While the Coyotes could use talented players, it is unlikely that Kirk will see much playing time in his first season. The Coyotes will likely chose to send him to their AHL Affiliate team or their ECHL affiliate team. The AHL is an important first step for many NHL players and will give Kirk the opportunity to develop. Most importantly, the AHL provides consistency in game and practices which gives players time to get used to an NHL style schedule.
Liam Kirk has a promising career ahead of him. Signing to a young, reconstructing team should allow him the opportunity to grow and develop alongside his teammates. Hopefully, he will break into the NHL level within the next few years and form a strong career for himself.