Weight: 185 pounds
Date of birth: June 26, 2001
Hometown: Staten Island, NY
Position: Left Wing
OHL Draft: Round 2, 26th overall, 2017 Priority Selection
NHL Central Scouting Rankings: Pre-season, November: A Prospect. Mid-term: 11 North America
Coming into this season, it was widely expected that it would be a two-way race between Hamilton’s Arthur Kaliyev and Barrie’s Ryan Suzuki as the first player selected from the Ontario Hockey League for the 2019 National Hockey League Draft in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Then in January, much to the surprise of many onlookers, NHL Central Scouting released its mid-term rankings and by scouring the list you would find Mississauga’s Thomas Harley at number 9, followed Suzuki at 10 and Kaliyev at 11 among North American skaters.
My belief coming into this season was the same in January and remains the same today: If you’re looking for a playmaker that borders on elite, Suzuki is the name you call on the draft floor. If it’s the pure sniper your dreaming of then you call on the kid born in Tashkent, Usbekistan.
The Kaliyev family moved to the United States when Arthur was just 11 months old. He came up playing through the Little Caesars hockey program, eventually playing for the Compuware Under-16 squad in his OHL Draft year. He appeared in 19 games that season scoring 13 goals while adding 5 assists and won an Under-16 Championship. The Bulldogs would use the 26th overall pick at the 2017 Priority Selection to nab Kaliyev.
OHL Central Scouting had this to say:
Arthur is a big, skilled power forward that isn’t afraid to get involved physically. He is a powerful player that has a good stride and is deceptively faster than most defencemen think. He shoots the puck like a junior already as his shot is very hard and he gets it off extremely quick. Arthur finds open ice very well and has the ability to hit the open holes just as the puck is getting there. He has great offensive instincts which are very hard to teach.
Kaliyev broke into the OHL a season ago on a star-studded Bulldogs’ roster that went on to win an OHL Championship and a birth in the Memorial Cup and playing mostly 4th line minutes. Yet he still managed to pot 31 goals and 17 assists while playing in all 68 games. He would add 3 more goals and 8 helpers in 21 playoff games. He was the first underage rookie to hit 30 goals since Alex Galchenyuk had 31 during the 2010-2011 season.
This season began with Kaliyev representing the United States at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup where he scored 3 goals and 3 assists in 5 games. He finished the season appearing in all but 1 games and scoring 51 goals and 51 assists and leading all draft eligible players in most offensive stats. At OHL Writers, we voted Kaliyev our Draft Eligible Player of the Year.
So, what do we have in Kaliyev?
Well, I had the chance to talk to Troy Izlakar, the analyst for Bulldogs’ games on Cable 14 in Hamilton. The first thing that caught my attention in talking to Troy was when he said, “Let’s face it, Arthur Kaliyev is a great hockey player. There, I said it! My broadcast partner Reed Duthie would be proud of me, despite the fact we still disagree on where he may get selected this June. In fact, we even have a fun side bet as to where he’ll be selected in the upcoming NHL draft.”
And that in a nutshell is the consensus. Or lack of it. Ask two people their opinions and they will likely differ. Here’s the thing: Kaliyev’s offensive abilities are no secret to anyone. They are as pure and lethal as anyone in the draft class. The question one must ask is “has there been an improvement from year to year, and has there been ongoing improvement throughout his draft year?” If you answered no, then you haven’t been paying attention.
Kaliyev possesses an elite level shot, an NHL caliber shot. OHL coaches voted him as having the best shot in the Eastern Conference. Troy said “On the power play from his sweet spot on the right side, there is likely nobody better at the one timer in the OHL than the left shot Kaliyev.” His numbers suggest that he can beat a goaltender from anywhere on the ice. Kaliyev shot 31.6% from high danger zone shots, 11.9% from mid danger zone areas and 14.2% from low danger zone areas.
Kaliyev has very good size at 6’2” and moves well. What is lacking is his willingness to take the puck hard to the net. Troy agreed, saying “Kaliyev is a better then average skater and really impressed scouts at the recent CHL Prospects game. However, he will often prefer to glide into the offensive zone looking for or giving a pass rather than attempting a straight power move to the net. He possesses that ability, I’ve see it, would just like to see it more.” I don’t think Troy is being overly critical here, but I also believe with maturity and confidence, it will come to him.
While Kaliyev is known and will probably forever be known as a sniper first, one cannot ignore the strides made in his puck distribution skills. He has excellent vision, puck protection skills and a knack for finding seams. 28 of his 51 assists were primary assists, and that is a sign of ability regardless if it’s 5 on 5 or on the powerplay.
Troy added, “Kaliyev is a better play maker than he likely gets credit for, but again the benefit of the first team power play gives him more time and space to create. During the second half of the season, we witnessed Kaliyev turn a corner on being a consummate play maker, he’s really starting to make everyone around him better.”
Kaliyev isn’t overly physical for his size, but he is willing to battle when necessary. Troy took it a step further: “I’d like to see him win more one on one battles in the corners and in high dangers areas, but maturity and strength will improve that. Kaliyev doesn’t shy away from puck battles but I sometimes feel it’s not his favourite thing to do.”
The knock on Kaliyev has always been his defensive game. But I go back to the question: Has he shown improvement year over year and throughout his draft season? I let Troy answer (agree with me): “There are nights you expect a 17yr old hockey player to disappear from the radar at times and Arthur Kaliyev still has those nights, particularly in the defensive zone. He has made a noticeable improvement during the latter half of this season, chasing down offenders inside his own blue line and shoring up his half board responsibilities in the D zone. Things are improving.”
Troy closed out our chat by saying “There’s no doubt Kaliyev will play professional hockey, but at the moment there is still work to be done on his 200ft game for a team to make a generational top 10 pick. I have Kaliyev slotted around 15-20 for the upcoming draft, which would mean he would be drafted by a team that is in a position to give him time to continue to craft his game and become a more well-rounded prospect.”
As they say, time will tell.