Name: Arthur Kaliyev
Team: Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
Position: Left wing
Stats: 67 games played, 51 goals, 51 assists, 102 points, 22 PIMs, -13 plus/minus rating
NHL Central Scouting ranking: 7th (North American Skaters)
Comparable NHL player: James Neal
Let’s get this out of the way first: yes, you read that above stat line correctly. No, your eyes didn’t deceive you, and it wasn’t a typo.
Arthur Kaliyev really did score 51 goals and 102 points this season in the OHL.
As a 17-year-old.
Those who follow hockey even just casually will still recognize that those are big numbers. Those who follow hockey — and, more specifically, the OHL — more closely will understand immediately that those are really big numbers.
Just how big? They elevate Kaliyev into some pretty special OHL company, next to names like John Tavares, Steven Stamkos, Jeff Skinner, and Alex DeBrincat as OHLers who scored 50 goals in their 17/18-year-old seasons.
The Hamilton Bulldogs left winger started his 2018-19 season with six goals in his first four games and never looked back. He terrorized opposing goaltenders all season long, from front to back.
So, suffice to say, the guy knows how to score goals.
But if that’s the case, why might Kaliyev still be available when the Dallas Stars make their first-round selection in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, all the way at 18th overall?
Well, that’s where things get complicated.
First, let’s start off with what Kaliyev does well, which is a lot. His shot is hard and accurate in all its variations, yet it’s his one-timer that really stands out for him. It might not be Patrik Laine good, but it’s damn close to that. He looks impossibly natural when unleashing it, even if the puck is bouncing a little or coming from an awkward angle.
He’s also quite underrated as a playmaker, making passes as hard and as accurate as his shots. He’s not particularly creative or deceptive in this regard — just consistent and efficient. He’s a thick, strong forward, but somehow still has a very soft touch on the puck and good control of his stick, allowing him to make a few moves to keep the puck away from opponents and pull it into better shooting or passing areas.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, his offensive hockey sense is very good as well, thinking a couple steps ahead of the play and routinely finding open ice to put himself in a better scoring position. Mix together the shot, the passing, the puck protection, and the awareness and you have a recipe for a lot of point production, especially on the power play — his 44 power play points this season were good for third in the entire OHL.
It also needs to be mentioned that Hamilton was, by no means, a good team this past season. And midway through the year they even traded Brandon Saigeon, their top center. In spite of that, Kaliyev just kept scoring and scoring and scoring. It speaks volumes that he was able to produce so much with so little talent around him.
But then the other shoe drops — and does so very, very slowly.
Not only is Kaliyev a slow and lumbering skater because of his heavy feet, it also seems like a problem that isn’t going to be very correctable going forward. Sometimes you see potential in a player’s skating, ways that it can be fixed through proper training and conditioning (Jason Robertson is a prime example of this), but with Kaliyev that potential doesn’t seem to be there.
Additionally, despite being a bigger forward, Kaliyev is something of a gentle giant, not getting as much usage out of his frame as he could. He’s hard to push around, sure, but he lacks the intensity that could make him much more effective on the forecheck, in board battles, and around opposing nets. The combined lack of speed and lack of intensity mean that he doesn’t have much to offer going forward when it comes to defending his own zone or killing penalties.
Ultimately, how much you like Kaliyev comes down to how much value you put into one-dimensional players — especially when that one dimension is really, really good.
If Kaliyev is still available when the Stars pick in the 18th spot, they’ll need to think long and hard about whether he is the best player still available — and even if he is, whether that’s still the right pick to make. Dallas is already loaded with big, young wingers, and have a very comparable player in Robertson. Just how much would adding to that stockpile really help the team’s future?