Continuing on with the reviews, we look today at one of the brightest young players in the system in Arthur Kaliyev.
Kaliyev did what many highly-touted young players struggle to do, which is stick in the NHL for a full season as a 20-year-old. Kaliyev’s ceiling is that of a top-six forward, but it was in the bottom six that he found a consistent, every-game opportunity. Kaliyev clicked nicely with Blake Lizotte and Brendan Lemieux on the fourth line, one that was the most consistent unit the team had in the first half of the season. A strong debut from Kaliyev, setting the stage for what is hopefully to come.
NHL Statistics – 80 games played, 14 goals, 13 assists, -3 rating, 37 penalty minutes
NHL Playoff Statline – 7 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists, -3 rating, 2 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% –58.4% (+5.2%), SCF – 58.3% (+5.5%), HDCF – 58.5% (+6.7%)
From a goal in his NHL debut last season to an impressive showing late in the preseason, excitement was high regarding Arthur Kaliyev in 2021-22. While it took him some time to find his place in the lineup, Kaliyev found a nice home in the bottom six and on the power play. Under normal circumstances, this would have been Kaliyev’s first professional season, but changes due to COVID allowed him to play in the AHL as an underaged player in 2020-21. That certainly vaulted him forward to being a contributor with the Kings this season.
“We all evaluate Arthur on what happens on the ice, that’s where, ultimately, he will be evaluated, but not a lot of people get to see his work away from the rink. How he’s transformed himself from a junior-body mentality, ‘I’m going to shoot the puck in the net a lot, to I’m going to be a complete player.’ He’s worked really hard in the gym, he’s proud of his gains there, he’s showing on the ice. I think he wins a lot more board battles now, 50-50 pucks, he’s able to skate longer in shifts, he’s able to haul people around with his big body, there’s more physicality to his game. We talk about, boy, it would be nice if he had 20, 30, 40 goals, he’s a rookie, he’s just figuring things out. he shoots the puck a ton, I think he leads all rookies in shots on goal, that’s a great thing and with his ability to shoot it, his shooting percentage is going to go up eventually. In my mind, Arthur has become a well-rounded, trusted player.”
Trending Up – Kaliyev’s greatest gift is his shot and this season, he shot the puck. The rookie forward averaged 16.8 shot attempts per/60, the most in the NHL amongst rookies with at least 500 minutes. Among those qualifying players, he ranked in the NHL’s Top 5 in scoring chances and Top 10 in high-danger chances on a per/60 basis in all situations. While his shooting percentage was low, especially at 5-on-5, that points to increased offensive possibilities with similar or greater output as Kaliyev grows as a player.
Six forwards in the NHL this season had CA/60 numbers below 45. Five of them placed within the Top 20 in the Selke Trophy voting and the other was Arthur Kaliyev. By possession metrics overall, Kaliyev was the team’s highest-ranking forward. He topped the charts for the Kings in all three metrics shown above, CF%, SCF% and HDCF%, amongst regular forwards as all three categories top 58 percent. We all discuss Kaliyev’s offensive gifts, beginning with his shot, and very rightfully so. But he improved his all-around game to a point where he could boast those metrics, and there’s something to be said for that improvement.
Kaliyev’s place on the team’s fourth line for much of the season is also a trending up, because of the success that line shared. Together with Blake Lizotte and Brendan Lemieux, Kaliyev’s totals only grew, with the line’s possession metrics slightly higher than his individual numbers. When together at 5-on-5, that line controlled more than 65 percent of goals scored, including more than 60 from high-danger locations. A possession-based line that shot, retrieved and shot again, with some pretty goals along the way. A solid season from that unit, with Kaliyev a big piece in that puzzle.
Trending Down – Mentioned earlier, but Kaliyev had a 5.33 shooting percentage at 5-on-5 this season, the lowest amongst all rookie forwards with at least 500 minutes played and in the bottom 30 of nearly 600 forwards in total with at least 500 minutes played amongst all players. That total goes a long way towards explaining a goal total that ranks lower than an expected goals total. Kaliyev is not yet a 30-goal scorer and it’s important to evaluate the player he is now, not the player he’s expected to become. With an enhanced shooting percentage, Kaliyev could see his totals climb next season.
Between the regular season and the playoffs, Kaliyev finished the 2021-22 campaign with just one goal from his final 20 games played. It’s not uncommon for a player going through his first go-around at the NHL level to experience a bit of a “rookie wall” down the stretch. That’s an area for Kaliyev that you’d expect to see straighten itself out with experience. As he gains more and more of it, he’ll be more consistent over the course of 82 games. It takes time, and time is on its side.
2022-23 Status – Kaliyev is under contract for two more seasons on his entry-level contract, which officially kicked in with the start of the 2021-22 season.
Kaliyev had a strong rookie season at the NHL level, all things considered. He certainly experienced growing pains at times, when it came to certain elements of the game, the entirety of a full 82 games and playoffs and playing an overall, 200-foot game consistently, but he also scored 14 goals and played in just about every game at the NHL level as a 20-year-old. With that experience in mind, Kaliyev should be expected to compete for an increased role here this coming season, with the hopes of seeing his offensive totals continue to build and grow into the top-six upside he possesses.