Liam Kirk will head to Dallas for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft ahead of the massive event which begins on 22nd June, wide-eyed and hopeful that he can be part of the “The Show” next season.
It’s been a whirlwind 12 months for the Sheffield teenager in a season that perhaps didn’t yield any silverware for him as part of the Sheffield Steelers, but two gold medals with Great Britain with the Under 18’s and the full men’s team.
After taking part in the recent Combine, the pre-draft event that measures each player’s abilities, strengths and fitness levels, Kirk heads to the USA hoping to be the latest Brit drafted into the world’s top league.
And while his dream is on the cusp of being fulfilled, he has always held an unwavering belief that he can cut it in the world’s best league, but admits taking part at the Combine was unthinkable a year ago.
“I never expected to be at such a big event at the start of last year, but I’ve always believed I could play in the NHL,” Kirk said. “Being invited to this event was huge for me and it’s a personal achievement.”
“I got a phone call from Dan Marr, the head of central scouting at the NHL and told me the invite, they ask the teams who they want to come and I had enough votes so it all started there.
“Once I knew I was going, it became very exciting and I wanted it to happen as quickly as possible. The excitement quickly turned into realisation that I would need to work hard to prepare for this.
“There was a quick turnaround with the World Championships just finishing so I had to sit down with Danny (Mawer), our strength and conditioning coach and worked out a plan.
“Overall I think it went well. The tests I did was different to the sort of things I’m used to and there was some hanging around a bit, going through your schedules and doing the interviews.
“It was a little tiring, but you had to be in the right mind frame and knowing you were doing the interviews all week as well as the tests.
“In whatever free time you had, you had to get yourself to the gym at the hotel and keep the mobility going so when the testing came, you were ready.”
The Combine in Buffalo earlier this month was certainly an eye-opening experience for Kirk, who was ranked number 65 in the European skaters category by NHL Central Scouting.
When it was discovered there was an English lad among the hopefuls, he started to get media coverage which he had never experienced before.
But he has no preference on which team he would go to if he is lucky enough to be taken on, stating he just wants to be part of it if possible.
He added: “Once word got around that I was English, it became a talking point from those conversations.
“There was some coverage on me and I wasn’t used to that, but there has been some social media over the last few weeks as we head closer to the Draft.
“It’s been nice to get the support from all over the UK and in other countries as well, but until then, I’m going to spend time with my family for the next couple of weeks.
“I spoke with a number of people from different clubs there and I’ve no preference on where I would like to go. I just want to play in the NHL.”