The "mindset" process Liam Kirk had to go through to meet NHL demands
NHL club Arizona Coyotes say Liam Kirk's maturing "mindset" was a key factor in their decision to offer him a three-year deal.
Kirk was selected in the seventh round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
But the son of Maltby had to wait until this Summer before Arizona announced they had contracted the former Sheffield Steelers and Sheffield Steeldogs' forward to a three-year entry-level association.
The Coyotes' organisation will be as new to Kirk, as the player himself will be to the franchise.
The club's coaching staff is relatively newly installed and has never met the winger.
But Alex Henry, player development coach for Arizona, reckons Kirk's advancement off the ice over the last three years has been as important as his progress on it.
"I think Liam would admit that it has been a process to get his mindset to where it is now," Henry told The Star.
"But we now see that he is a dedicated professional who will give himself the best chance possible to play in the NHL.
"Obviously Liam had a great World Championship (with Great Britain.) His hard work and commitment led him to some success at that level.
"However, it was the body of work and progress that Liam has made as a pro, a person and in his game – along with his talent – that earned him his contract with the Coyotes."
Henry acknowledged that Kirk was spotted by the club's previous amateur scouting staff playing for Steelers and Team Great Britain but didn't know how often he was physically scouted by the outgoing administration.
However, he commented: "I can say that since being selected by our club and playing with the Peterborough Petes of the OHL, after he was selected by the Coyotes, we have followed his path very closely.
"Mark Bell, our director of player development, had regular weekly conversations with Liam. Watching live games, phone calls and viewing team video are all ways we communicate with our prospects."
Coyotes are certainly hopeful the Brit can succeed in the world's top league.
"Liam has some NHL calibre skill" said Henry.
"He has great puck control, speed and possesses an accurate shot. These attributes make him a threat on the ice."
The club says they will try and guarantee that Kirk's off-ice environment will be as appropriate and happy as possible for the 21-year-old, whether he plays for the NHL team or their affiliate Tucson Roadrunners in the AHL.
"The Coyotes’ and Roadrunners’ coaching, training, and team services staff do an excellent job checking in on players to make sure they are doing well throughout training camp and the regular season," said a spokesman.
The club official said Victor Soderstrom would be a good example of an imported player they'd hope Kirk could emulate.
"He was drafted by the Coyotes in 2019 and played in Sweden until last year when he came to Arizona for training camp. He played most of the season with the Roadrunners and finished the regular season with the Coyotes."
Kirk is on the Arizona Coyotes' roster for their 2021 Rookie Faceoff Tournament on September 17 to 20 at the Gila River Arena.
The tournament will feature six NHL teams, including the Coyotes.