Rarely does a seventh-round draft pick come with high expectations, but that certainly is the case for British forward Liam Kirk with the Arizona Coyotes.
Kirk was selected by the Coyotes with the 189th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, bringing with him the hopes and dreams of an entire nation - becoming the first-ever England-born and trained player to be drafted into the league.
Liam Kirk - 24
20/21 League: HockeyEttan (Swedish 3rd Tier)
Games played: 7
Highest rating: 21
Lowest rating: 24
Since that day, Kirk has plied his trade in the Ontario Hockey League with the Peterborough Petes.
His debut season saw him put up good numbers, with 26 goals and 21 assists in 63 regular-season games - adding a further assist in five playoff appearances.
Kirk has developed well north of the border and was handed the coveted alternate captain’s ‘A’ for his second season in Canadian major juniors - showing what he can offer a team both on and off the ice.
On the ice, in particular, during what was an injury-plagued, COVID-shortened campaign, Kirk was more than a point-per-game player with 50 total points (21 goals, 29 assists) in just 47 games.
With the OHL still unsure of a return for the 2020/21 season, Kirk followed in the footsteps of several NHL prospects and headed to Europe - where he is currently playing in the Swedish third tier with Hanhals IF.
While he has primarily be utilized on either wing since heading to Canada, Hanhals have placed Kirk firmly at the center position - regularly featuring on their top forward line.
In his seven regular-season appearances so far since heading to Europe, Kirk has been a point-per-game player while playing against fully grown adult professionals.
Kirk could find himself playing out the entire 2020/21 season in Sweden if the OHL does not return soon, with the Maltby, Yorkshire native turning 21 in January and losing his junior eligibility after this campaign.
A long stint playing against professionals, something that Kirk is more than familiar with, having been drafted out of the EIHL - the top professional league in the United Kingdom, as well as already having represented Team GB at the World Championships in 2019.
A young player that already has an international pedigree is hard to come by, especially in the top level of the World Championships, so he finds himself included on this list of the Arizona Coyotes’ top 25 players under the age of 25, but he will need to continue to take great strides if he hopes to move further up the list and have a legitimate shot at the NHL.
Kirk has the potential to jump up to the North American professional game, with a great work ethic and attitude, but he will require a few years of seasoning and stints in the ECHL and AHL, whenever either league can return, could be in his future if he continues to improve and perform in Sweden.