Arthur Kaliyev was originally born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, but moved quickly to North America. He played his youth hockey with the Detroit Little Caesars and Compuware AAA programs in Michigan, before moving on to the Hamilton Bulldogs in the OHL. In the season prior to his draft, Kaliyev put up 102 points in 67 games. This would earn him the 33rd overall selection, with the Los Angeles Kings taking him in the second round. The 19-year-old is a larger winger, standing at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds.
In terms of skill, Kaliyev is the complete package. He has outstanding speed and a great shot, a pairing that usually ends up doing well in the NHL. Kaliyev does have one big issue, though, which is why he slipped from a possible top 10 pick to the second round. He not only needs to work on his physical play, but he can be a defensive liability. No matter how much skill a guy has, no one in the NHL succeeds if they don’t have defensive abilities. This is an area Kaliyev needs to work on if he wants a shot at the Kings roster.
Kaliyev Is the Core of Winger Prospects for the Kings
Along with Samuel Fagemo, Kaliyev is at the forefront of the Kings’ winger prospects. The team has an incredibly deep prospect pool, but it is mostly occupied by centers. A future featuring Alex Turcotte, Gabriel Vilardi, Akil Thomas, and Blake Lizotte only matters if they have guys on the wing to play with.
Although with 11 picks at the 2020 NHL Draft, the Kings can improve their winger depth, it will take a few seasons at least for the prospects to be NHL ready. Because of this, it will be Kaliyev that will be taking most of the winger load going into the era of the reinvented Kings, making his development incredibly crucial to the team.
Kaliyev’s Defensive Issues
The one main downfall of Kaliyev’s game is that he can sometimes be a defensive liability. It is certainly a serious issue if it dropped him almost 20 selections in his draft year, as projected in some rankings. A player in a similar situation to Kaliyev is Ryan Merkley. Like Kaliyev, Merkley has elite skill, but his lack of commitment to defense put him on some teams’ “do not draft list.” He ended up getting selected to another California team, the San Jose Sharks, late in the first round.
Scouts have reservations about his work ethic and his play in his own end. His compete level is low as he is the last to forecheck, backcheck and get involved in any kind of physical battle.
In terms of guys like Kaliyev and Merkley being labeled as “high-risk picks,” the risk is minimized when a team like the Sharks or the Kings have veteran leadership in the locker room. With Kopitar and Doughty on the team, it is going to be hard for Kaliyev to find a way on the roster, as he won’t just have to worry about coaches and management, but the other players on the team. Kopitar, a 33-year-old veteran, is still putting in the full effort every shift. With that kind of energy, it will be hard for Kaliyev to sit back.
Why the Kings Need Kaliyev to Turn Out Well
The Kings have spent a number of seasons building up their prospect pool to take another run at a Stanley Cup. They have done an outstanding job at the center position, but they need to work on filling out the rest of their prospect pool. This makes Kaliyev’s development very valuable to the team. If one of their center prospects doesn’t work out, it’s okay, as they have a plethora of others to back him up.
If Kaliyev doesn’t work out, on the other hand, it is a big loss for the winger group. The centers Los Angeles has brought on won’t have guys to play with, so the team might have to look to free agency or a trade. Of course, the entire rebuild isn’t dependent on Kaliyev, as the Kings will have the chance to draft multiple wingers in the coming days, but none will have the talent that Kaliyev does or the NHL readiness in the next few seasons.