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Sheffield Steelers prospect will need mental strength to face NHL draft challenge says team-mate

Liam Kirk'. Picture by Dean Woolley
Liam Kirk'. Picture by Dean Woolley
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Liam Kirk has the physical tools to crack the north American hockey circuit - but he must also find the resolve to conquer a different set of mental challenges.

That’s the view of his Sheffield Steelers’ team-mate Davey Phillips, who knows what it is like to be bounced around the minors’ system on the other side of the Atlantic.

He featured in five US teams (seasons 2009-2011.)

And he gave Kirk an insight into his experiences before the 18-year-old sets off on his Summer mission to land a job through this month’s NHL entry draft.

“It is going to be a great experience for him, as long as he doesn’t let the downs in the roller-coaster get to him” said the 30 year old.

“He will have to be tough mentally as well as physically.

Davey Phillips playing for GB v Italy

Davey Phillips playing for GB v Italy

“His ability speaks for itself, but it’s a cut-throat business there. You can be sent to leagues above or below the team you start off in.

“You can take part in practice one day and then get shipped off somewhere a few hours later.

“North American players think Brits just play football and look at us differently until they see us play and then you can earn their expect.

“In my second year I was at four teams (Toledo Walleye, Chicago Wolves, Gwinnett Gladiators and Lake Erie Monsters.) Being pushed from pillar to post messes with your head.

“I wasn’t that strong at dealing with that, at the time, in hindsight I could have been better at it.

“But I learned enough to give Liam a heads-up rather than going in blind. He’s a good listener and took it on board.

“Every day he’s going to have to bring it, but he knows all the protocols that lie ahead of him. Like every player in his position he’ll need a bit of luck, too - his face will have to fit at his new team.”

Phillips says the slim frame of Kirk will not be an issue overseas.

“He will fill out. At 18 most kids are as skinny as a rake but develop quickly.

“As for the chances of success of a fourth-line Elite League player over there, well you wouldn’t see an 18-year-old OHL player getting in Sheffield’s line up. Liam has been playing with and against adults.”

Phillips, who had spells at Manchester Storm, Belfast Giants, Hull Stingrays and Coventry Blaze added: “Thommo (coach Paul Thompson) and Danny Mawer (strength coach) have done an excellent job with Liam and now he’s heading to the best place in the world where there are people who specialise in getting kids like him into the NHL.”

Phillips summed up: “There might be the odd difficult time ahead of him, but fingers-crossed, it will all go well for him.”

*NHL teams to have shown an interest in the Maltby forward: Arizona, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Colorado, Detroit, New York Rangers, Ottawa, San Jose, and Washington.

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