Great Britain hockey is certainly not what you are usually looking to when you’re trying to check out prospects for the next NHL Entry Draft. Things may change for 2018, though. Sheffield Steelers forward Liam Kirk is now a legit prospect for the next round of selections.
He’s not ranked by NHL Central Scouting Bureau for now but he appears on a “limited viewing” list sent to every NHL team. Moreover, it has been rumored that NHL scouts attended his games in the UK league. The Hockey Writers reached Liam Kirk to talk about his personal story, his prospects for the next season, and his future career.
First Steps in Hockey
The Hockey Writers: Hello, Liam. Talk a little bit about yourself. Where were you born? What was your first team? Did you always play as a forward?
Liam Kirk: I was born in Rotherham, England, lived here my whole life. I started skating at 2-3 and played for 15 years now. My first team and the only team has been Sheffield juniors, I’ve never moved away. I’ve always played as a forward, mainly as a center, but the past two years I’ve played on the left wing.
THW: You have an older brother. Did he bring you to hockey?
LK: Yeah, my brother Jonathan started hockey at around 5-6, he was the one who I looked up to as you do and I wanted to play hockey like him. I still look to him now for advice.
THW: A few years ago you played at the QC Pewee tournament. What were your feelings?
LK: Excitement, I was fortunate to play there twice. It’s a great tournament. You meet great people. I stay in contact with my billets from then now. The tournament is huge at that age, you get to play in a massive arena in front of thousands of fans and the whole setup is incredible. Me and my friends have always said if we could do any hockey trip again it would be that one.
Liam Kirk and the NHL Entry Draft
THW: Do you think it is possible to make the NHL from the British league or you think you will have to move on to a better league overseas?
LK: I think it’s possible, I don’t see why not, of course it’s a lot more difficult as there is less attention but if you work hard someone will see you and that’s all you need is that one spark of attention that can set off a whirlwind effect.
THW: What do you think about the KHL? Would you accept to move there?
LK: Of course, the KHL is one of the best leagues in the world. It would be awesome to play there.
THW: Your history may be similar to the one of Alexandre Texier, who is from France, which is not a hockey country, and was drafted in the NHL. Do you think your situation is similar?
LK: It sounds similar, the difference being France juniors play in the top world championships divisions whereas GB don’t, our goal will be to win golds and get there of course. Not taking anything away from him, but I’m sure he would have had more coverage, I’m not sure.
Move Overseas on the Horizon
THW: Next year, you will probably move, I think. Do you want to play in a men’s league or would the Canadian CHL good for you as well?
LK: I’ve been looking at my options and CHL seems to be the best so far, we have to wait and see. For now, I need to focus on the last run for the Steelers season and try and get some silverware.
THW: It has been rumored that NHL scouts attended your games recently. What do you think about it?
LK: Exciting I guess, I don’t see it as added pressure. I see it as a chance to express myself by doing what I do.
THW: What do you think you can bring to an NHL organization?
LK: Hard work, team spirit, willingness. I would compete to earn my spot.
THW: Some of your teammates played in North America at a high level, have they told you anything interesting about it?
LK: Just gave me advice and told me about there experiences and how it all works.
THW: I understand that for most of the players being drafted is the only thing that counts, but do you have NHL teams or cities that you like more than others?
LK: I have a favorite team, but I’m not picky. I want to be drafted and I don’t care by who.
THW: In the UK, hockey training is not as developed as in other top countries as there aren’t enough specialists, do you think you will participate in some camps this summer? Did you do it the previous years?
LK: There aren’t many camps, if any, that are there for elite players. There isn’t any free ice that you can have access to either – my summers are always spent in the gym with our instructor.
THW: Last year I have translated an interview with Pavel Vorobyev. He said that most of the players have a day job and just play hockey on nights. Is the situation still like that or you feel that it’s switching towards a more professional world?
LK: Since I’ve signed, apart from me who’s at school, all the players just play hockey for a career. At Sheffield they do anyway and I don’t know about other teams.
THW: Do you have any favorite players? Do you think your game reminds the game of other players?
LK: My favorite player is Connor McDavid and I really enjoy watching Auston Matthews. I don’t think I play like them, I don’t know, maybe Mitch Marner.