Sheffield Steelers winger ready to spread his wings

Not much takes Steelers' head coach Aaron Fox by surprise in ice hockey.

By Bob Westerdale
Sunday, 30th May 2021, 10:46 am

But he admits he would be flabbergasted if Liam Kirk was donning the Sheffield shirt again, next season.

His performances in the World Championships for Great Britain in Latvia will have increased his marketability on the global stage.

While the player himself is hoping his NHL draft club Arizona Coyotes will give him a contract, or their affiliates find room for him, he has been noble enough to say that playing for Steelers in a fast-improving EIHL would not be a disaster.

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Yet Fox, asked if the chances of getting Kirk back were a thousand-to-one, answered: "Playing in the Worlds, the way he has, well I would be shocked if he is in England next year!

"I have to believe that there is somebody that is going to give him an opportunity to play at a higher level. Let's hope somebody does, that's for sure.

"It is so good for British hockey, he is a Sheffield kid, he came through here (the Sheffield system) so it also raises the profile of here in Sheffield.

"If he has not got anything obviously we will welcome him back with open arms. But to be perfectly honest...he gone!"

GB's Liam Kirk chance against the Czechs, pic by Dean Woolley

The American sports scene is certainly waking up to Kirk's potential and work ethic.

Sports blogging network SB Nation writer James Reeve wrote last week: "The 21-year-old’s performances so far in the competition should be putting the Coyotes on notice.

"Kirk has been a threat on the forecheck, with smooth, nimble skating allowing him to cause problems for opposing defences, but his all-around game is what should be impressing the Coyotes' organisation.

"Kirk has shown a willingness to backcheck multiple times in this tournament, helping to stifle some strong offences at crucial moments of games, demonstrating an evolving 200-foot game that goes a long way to impressing at a higher level.

GB Liam Kirk on the boards v Sweden, pic by Dean Woolley

"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."

The website added that "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 (currently standing at five goals and one assists.)

And there was this suggestion from Reeve too: "There’s no reason why the (Arizona) organisation 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.

GB Matt Myers goal v Czech 2021 GB pic by Dean Woolley

"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."

Saturday's 6-1 GB loss to the Czechs saw EIHL series Steeler Matt Myers get on the scoresheet, assisted by Kirk.

But do they have one last chance to show the world, as they did Belarus, what they are capable of.

On Tuesday, they wrap up the tournament against Switzerland, the eighth ranked team in the world.