It is rare for a seventh-round draft pick to receive much attention, but that is not the case for Arizona Coyotes prospect Liam Kirk.
With the 189th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, the Arizona Coyotes made history by selecting the first-ever English-born and English-trained player when they chose Liam Kirk.
The Yorkshire native would later be selected ninth overall in the CHL Import Draft by the Peterborough Petes, where he would play for the next two seasons to help develop and refine his game.
With the eyes and hopes of a nation resting on him, Kirk had a strong two-year spell in the Ontario Hockey League, registering 47 goals and 97 total points in 110 appearances - even being named an alternate captain in his second season.
His overage season, which would have taken place in 2020/21, was ultimately ruled out due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, robbing Kirk of another opportunity to impress in North America.
With no hockey being played in his home country at the start of the season, Kirk eventually took his talents to Sweden to play for Hanhals IF of the HockeyEttan, the third tier in the country.
In 12 games, Kirk registered a respectable five goals and five assists as he regained his fitness levels after so long without an opportunity to play.
From then on, however, the Maltby-born winger exploded in two mini-competitions in British hockey, first in the second-tier NIHL Cup, before heading back to the EIHL.
Kirk helped guide the Sheffield Steeldogs to NIHL Cup victory with some truly dominant performances, racking up 21 goals and 32 points in just 12 games before returning to the level the Coyotes originally drafted him out of.
Returning to his former club, the Sheffield Steelers, Kirk put up 20 points (ten goals, ten assists) in 14 games during an EIHL series - falling short of claiming the cup after losing to bitter rivals the Nottingham Panthers.
Now in full swing, Kirk earned an unsurprising call up to Team Great Britain for the IIHF World Championships in Riga, Latvia, and the 21-year-old’s performances so far in the competition should be putting the Coyotes on notice.
At the time of writing, Kirk is tied for the most goals in the tournament with four, helping guide Team GB to a 4-3 victory over Belarus in their last game, with Kirk notching two goals.
Kirk has been a threat on the forecheck, with smooth, nimble skating allowing him to cause problems for opposing defenses, but his all-around game is what should be impressing the Coyotes organization.
Kirk has shown a willingness to backcheck multiple times in this tournament, helping to stifle some strong offenses at crucial moments of games, demonstrating an evolving 200-foot game that goes a long way to impressing at a higher level.
His offensive senses and positioning continue to garner attention in his home country, and it’s time that the Arizona Coyotes pay attention to their former seventh-round selection.
His rights expire in a year’s time, after which he could sign with any team in the NHL that is interested in a low-risk, high-reward player that could develop even further than what he has shown over the past three years.
Kirk has made huge strides in his game, as evidenced by his showing in the EIHL series compared to his draft year, as well as his progression with the national team - having registered zero points in the 2019 World Championships, to now having four goals and plenty more games to add to that total so far.
Conor Garland is a late-round selection that the Coyotes have worked well with to develop and grow into a legitimate NHL player, so there’s no reason why the organization shouldn’t start looking at bringing Kirk over to the AHL or ECHL and work towards building him into a player that could realistically compete for an NHL spot in a couple of years.
There have been reports of interest from both the SHL and Allsvenskan in Sweden for Kirk’s talents, a clear indication that the young Englishman is highly thought of beyond his home nation, and something that the Coyotes should consider very seriously.
Give Kirk a chance to show the organization what he is capable of achieving, with a strong work ethic, and they may very well have another Garland on their hands.