Great Britain forward Liam Kirk has signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Arizona Coyotes, the 21-year-old’s representatives have confirmed.
A seventh-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Kirk played a starring role at this year’s IIHF World Championship. In seven appearances for Team GB, Kirk amassed seven goals and two assists.
The Yorkshireman’s production saw him tie Andrew Mangiapane for the goal-scoring lead in Latvia, while also ranking sixth in point-scoring.
Speculation regarding Kirk’s future has been rife since Great Britain’s participation in the Worlds came to an end. Elliotte Friedman reported that the Coyotes had given “given permission for teams to talk to Kirk” on June 15.
History was made 24 hours later, with Gold Star Hockey announcing the agreement, making Kirk the first English-born and trained player to sign an NHL contract.
Who is Liam Kirk?
A product of the Sheffield Steelers’ development programme, Kirk is a constant figure in the British national team.
After being drafted 189th overall by the Coyotes, the 6’-1” winger spent two seasons in the OHL, where he registered 97 points in 110 appearances for the Peterborough Petes.
However, with the final year of his OHL eligibility wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic, Kirk returned to the UK to participate in the Elite Series.
Having signed an entry-level contract with the Coyotes, Kirk will skate in North America in 2022, likely with the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners.
Reaction as Kirk Signs Historic ELC
“It has always been my dream to play in the NHL so to get this deal with the Coyotes is fantastic,” Kirk said earlier this week.
“I am a step closer to that dream and I will continue to push myself to reach the elite level. I’m looking forward to linking-up with Arizona with an entry-level contract.”
National team coach Pete Russell, who handed Kirk his senior debut in 2018, said: “It’s fantastic news for Liam.”
“After an incredible World Championship, he gets an entry-level contract with Arizona in the NHL – it’s amazing.”
“His journey is starting again and he’s now got a huge challenge ahead, but he’s a great guy and he has really developed as a player.”
“Just think how far he has come in the past few years, especially with that performance at the World Championship. I couldn’t be happier for him. He’s from a lovely family and is a great kid. I’m really excited for him.”
Analysis: ‘A Huge Moment in British Hockey History’
After a sensational run at the World Championship in Latvia, it was clear that Liam Kirk’s next move would be a big one.
Initially, Kirk was linked with clubs in Switzerland and Finland. Having spent most of 2020-21 in the UK, a move to either nation would have been a significant step up for Kirk.
Even at the start of this month, it seemed unlikely that Arizona would offer the Brit a deal. Clearly, quite a lot has changed since then.
After much umming and erring, Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong has finally brought Kirk into the fold in Arizona. The organisation gains a young, confident goal-scorer as a result.
It is a no-lose situation for the team and player. Arizona has the chance to salvage a prospect it had largely neglected. Kirk has the opportunity to realise his NHL dream.
Make no mistake, this is a huge moment in British hockey history.