The 2021/22 season is fast approaching, so here at Five For Howling, we’re taking a look at this year’s Arizona Coyotes 25 best players under the age of 25.
Coming in at number 19 is a player that carries with him the hopes of an entire nation after a sensational showing at this year’s IIHF World Championships.
Liam Kirk is a name closely followed by fans of the Arizona Coyotes on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, with the Maltby, Yorkshire native growing into one of the organization’s most intriguing prospects.
20/21 League: HockeyEttan (Hanhals IF), EIHL Series (Sheffield Steelers)
Games played: 12/14
World Championship Games: 7
World Championship Goals: 7
World Championship Assists: 2
Highest rating: 15
Lowest rating: 21
Last year’s rankings: 23
Selected in the seventh round (189th overall) of the 2018 Draft, Kirk became the first fully English-born and trained player to be drafted by an NHL team - following in the footsteps of former British draftees Tony Hand (Edmonton, 1986, 12th round) and Colin Shields (Philadelphia, 2000, 6th round).
Kirk took the Canadian major juniors route for his development, playing for the Peterborough Petes before the pandemic shutting down the OHL during what would have been his overage season in 2021.
This left the winger with a tough path to continue his progress while having no options in North America - ultimately seeing him spend time in the Swedish third tier with Hanhals IF as well as enjoying a fruitful return to the EIHL with the Sheffield Steelers.
In total, Kirk managed 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists) across the two teams while also adding many more points during a brief stint in the British second tier - all in preparation for the World Championships in Latvia.
The tournament, where Kirk represented Team Great Britain for the first time since 2019, saw him explode on the international scene and start to turn heads of those who had not followed his progress closely.
By the time the tournament came to a close, Kirk had tied for the most goals of the entire competition with seven while only playing in the group stage and seeing many existing NHLers suit up for teams stronger than Team GB.
Kirk demonstrated keen offensive awareness and improved defensive responsibilities and determination - leaps and bounds above where he had been when the team made history by selecting him.
The improvements he demonstrated during the international tournament earned him an entry-level contract with the team after wild rumors and reports circulated that he might be available. However, General Manager Bill Armstrong stepped in and decided to keep him within the organization.
Now, Kirk will have the chance at staking a claim at a roster spot with the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners, allowing him to progress at the professional level under the watchful eyes of the NHL club.
Kirk has a legitimate shot at being the first fully born and trained Englishman to play in the NHL and has climbed our rankings thanks to his impressive performances this year, with plenty of optimism over what comes next.