Former Sheffield Steelers starlet can win a berth in the NHL, says Belfast Giants ace
Belfast Giants forward Colin Shields sees no reason why fellow NHL draftee Liam Kirk can't be a star in North America.
The 18-year-old Maltby winger is with new club Arizona Coyotes after being picked in Saturday’s draft and is already being put through his paces in the US.
And Shields, the last Brit to be drafted (Philadelphia Flyers; 2000) says: “I don’t see why he can’t make it to the NHL.”
“Liam has good size, skates well and sees the ice well. The way the game’s played now, it’s about speed and skating.
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“He has a great opportunity and I hope he can make an impact. I don’t expect him to call me for advice, but all I would say to him is give it your best shot.
“Everyone’s going to be watching and there’s a lot of confidence in him he can make that jump. To be drafted is such an accomplishment and it’s just the start for him now. Hopefully he can make the next step.”
“Looking back at my experience, it’s probably a lot different to what Liam has gone through now. I wasn’t even sure I was going to be taken, so I was at home in Scotland, bearing in mind the time difference so I think I was actually in my bed.
“I woke up the next morning and went on the old dial-up internet to find out I’d been drafted. The next thing I had phone calls from my agent and from the Flyers and it went from there.”
Before former Sheffield Steeler Kirk was picked up, Shields and Tony Hand were the previous two Brits to have been taken by NHL clubs, but both didn’t quite make the grade.
Shields spent five years in North America, eventually signing for Belfast in 2005.
The 38-year-old played against Kirk last season and was also a GB team-mate in the World Championships that saw Pete Russell’s side achieve qualification.
Shields spoke of his delight that Kirk has his chance in “The Show” and spoke of his own experience of the teenager as someone who’s played with and against him.
He added: “It was a great experience and an accomplishment at that stage in my career and looking back, it’s definitely one of the biggest moments of my life.
“It’s different now with social media and the exposure the kids have, but I’m sure it was a big moment for Liam and I’m more than happy for him.
“For him, this is a starting point and his foot in the door. Now he goes over there and starts playing, whether that’s the CHL or whatever league he goes, it’s important he gets that experience now.
“It’s a different style of play compared to the Elite League and he’ll come up against guys his own age with the same goals to him. Hopefully he can make that jump now.
“Over the course of the season, you could really see him improve and for a kid like that, it was good to see. The Steelers gave him more ice time, which was good also.
“You’re 18 years old and playing against men basically so it’s important for him to get into a league playing against similar guys with similar goals.
“Playing with him in the GB team was interesting and it was the same with the Steelers where he didn’t get a lot of ice time to getting more as the tournament went on and his confidence grew.
“The coaches saw he could play at that level and he became more effective in a standard which was high.
“He’s a good kid, who wants to learn and listen. I had some good conversations with him and it was great to see the enthusiasm he has for the game.”