2019 NHL Draft Spotlight: Arthur Kaliyev
As we are one week into the offseason after the St. Louis Blues, for the first time in Franchise history I might add, hailed Lord Stanley, it’s time to now focus our attention on the upcoming NHL Entry Level Draft on June 21st. The upcoming draft is highlighted by top prospects, Finnish-born Kappo Kakko and American Jack Hughes. With that said, there are some other notable exciting prospects that should not go unnoticed.
This spotlight covers predicted mid-first round draft pick, Arthur Kaliyev, a skilled offensive forward who has spent his last two seasons with the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs. In his second season (2018-2019) with the rebuilding Hamilton Bulldogs, Arthur was given first line minutes, alongside skilled forward Matthew Strome. Kaliyev took advantage of this opportunity, rising in his draft stock after a successful 102 point season.
Goal Scorer (let’s start with the easy one)
Arthur Kaliyev’s 31 goals in his rookie season was followed up by an impressive 51 goal 2018-2019 season, calculating to 0.76 goals per game. As a comparative, Steven Stamkos scored in 0.95 goals per game in his draft year with the Sarnia Sting. Kaliyev’s goal count in itself is impressive, but what is the most promising trait in Kaliyev’s game is that he lacks a weakness in the offensive zone, which can be hard to defend viably. Notice how I said specifically “goal scorer” as the subtitle. I did not say “sniper”. This is an important distinction because this differentiates the Steven Stamkos’ and Brett Hulls’ in the NHL to a person who has more in his arsenal than just a wicked shot.
When Kaliyev has the puck in the offensive zone, he can beat defensemen and goaltenders in a number of ways and in a number of areas. When you watch Kaliyev in the offensive zone, the first offensive tool that attracts scouts is his heavy shot. The combination of power, accuracy and his quick release provides Kaliyev with a weapon that is tough to defend in the OHL. On the powerplay, Kaliyev can be spotted at the faceoff dot on his off-wing, where Kaliyev was able to beat goaltenders from the perimeter on a frequent basis. If he was not able to beat the goaltender, it was even rarer the goaltender held onto the shot without surrendering a rebound. There were many occasions where Kaliyev’s shot not only generated goals, but his shot provided quality scoring chances when he was not able to convert through dangerous second chance opportunities. This was especially important on a significantly thin Hamilton Bulldogs offense. In addition, what may go more unnoticed to the average fan was Kaliyev’s ability to score close in front of the net. When Arthur had the puck, it was tough to take it off him. Kaliyev’s size and strength allowed Arthur to keep possession of the puck in close quarters, which was important when driving to the net and winning loose pucks. Add in his skilled handling, and you have a player that can not only win puck battles and get to the net through his size, but he can also find space and finish in close quarters.
There’s a difference between offensive talent and awareness. Having the IQ in the offensive zone is just as important as being able to execute offensively. What we’ll be discussing later is Kaliyev’s poor skating abilities. Kaliyev compensates for this lack of speed and skating ability with his aptitude to know where the scoring areas are. Arthur frequently finds himself in the right areas and finds open space to release his wicked shot by getting to spaces before the defense can, as opposed to generating space through one’s speed.
In addition to his ability to be at “the right spot at the right time”, Arthur has an underrated ability to find the open man. Yes, his scoring ability succeeds his other strengths and is what Kaliyev is most known for, but it’s important to avoid overlooking this talent. When he is the first pass out of a break out or after a neutral zone turnover, you’ll notice that he has the knack of making the right play in transition as well as in the offensive zone. When in the offensive zone, his awareness of where the defense and his teammates are allows him to find the teammate with the highest percentage quality chance. This awareness allows Kaliyev stay mentally one play ahead, and on occasion, resulting in Kaliyev being on the sending or receiving end of a bang-bang play. He didn’t get all 51 assists from just rebounds off his shots.
Arthur’s aforementioned size and strength are key to his success to his offensive success, however his skating could use some work to take himself from a mid-first round draft pick to a top 5. Hamilton featured Matthew Strome and Arthur Kaliyev on the top line for much of the year and despite the line featuring ample amounts of skill, it was in general fairly slow. Kaliyev may fare well in a race with Strome, however I found that Kaliyev could be more efficient when starting at a halt. When watching him play, it seemed like Kaliyev can improve his first couple steps in order to get to top speed a little quicker. This will help him tremendously when needing to change direction or on the breakout and in transition through the neutral zone. However at the same time, when he does reach top speed, it’s no Connor McDavid. This makes him less involved and effective in the neutral zone in breakouts, where he’ll likely either dump the puck in or leave it for a faster teammate to carry the puck into the offensive zone when he receives the puck. In essence, you won’t see Arthur carrying the puck often unless inside the offensive zone. Arthur is very strong once in the offensive zone and is heavily involved in the cycle, however being able to make an impact in the neutral zone would elevate his game to the next level.
This is the area of Kaliyev’s game that receives the most criticism. Now, as offensive as Kaliyev is, it’s rare even in the NHL to see a player who you would say is strong both offensively and defensively. However, because hockey is a 200 foot game, it’s required to analyze Kaliyev’s 200 foot game. In short, Kaliyev is a 100 foot player, arguably a 75 foot player (the area of the offensive zone). His game and senses are purely offensive minded. On occasion, you will see Kaliyev make a nice defensive play, however typically he is really there to be at the boards on breakouts and cover his assignment. The Selke is probably the last trophy I expect Kaliyev to be rewarded.
Conclusion and Prediction
Overall, Kaliyev is a very talented, offensive minded forward who has the combination of NHL caliber instincts and skill inside the offensive zone that make him such an attractive pick. However, in a game of speed, Kaliyev’s biggest room for improvement would be his skating. Despite this, no matter which team selects Arthur, I can see him being a top 6 contributor within his first two to three NHL seasons. An appropriate comparable in my mind would be a James Neal, who can find the back of the net and has some size with him.
If Kaliyev was a better skater and was better off the puck, I can see him going a lot higher in the draft. With that said, I won’t pick on his skating any longer, but I’m seeing him going mid-first round.
Prediction: Arizona Coyotes (14th)