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Kaliyev hoping to bolster Kings offense in near future

Forward prospect will hone defensive game in juniors this season

by Dan Greenspan / NHL.com Correspondent

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Arthur Kaliyev wasn't alive the last time the Los Angeles Kings had a top-five offense in the NHL.

The 18-year-old forward prospect was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on June 26, 2001, more than one year after the Kings finished fifth in goals during the 1999-2000 season (2.99 per game). Los Angeles has finished in the top 10 twice in 17 seasons during Kaliyev's lifetime -- tied for ninth in 2009-10 (2.82) and 10th in 2012-13 (2.73) -- a trend it hopes the second-round pick (No. 33) in the 2019 NHL Draft can help reverse.

"We're excited, we're so happy to have him on our team," said longtime NHL executive Mike O'Connell, now a special adviser to Kings general manager Rob Blake. "He looks like he's going to be a proven scorer no matter what level he plays at."

 

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The playmaking pedigree of Kaliyev was evident the past two seasons, when he had 150 points (82 goals, 68 assists) in 135 games for Hamilton of the Ontario Hockey League. He scored 31 goals as a 16-year-old in 2017-18 and 51 goals in 67 games last season.

Kaliyev (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) showed he is more than a scorer during Kings development camp in June, often displaying an understanding of where to place passes and create scoring chances for teammates. But it is the powerful shot he developed growing up in Staten Island, New York, that stands out, with Kings first-round pick Alex Turcotte taking notice when they played in the 2018 USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game.

"He probably has one of the best shots in the draft and is one of the best goal-scorers in the draft," said Turcotte, a center chosen by Los Angeles with the No. 5 pick in 2019. "A guy like him, he was slated to go in the first round, and lucky enough for us he dropped to the second. And it was definitely a steal, for sure. I mean, I think there are going to be some teams that regret not taking him."

The attacking nature of Kaliyev's game extends to defense, where he looked to be at his best when aggressively forechecking, but he needs to improve when it comes to positioning and skating backward.

"That'll come," O'Connell said. "That's teachable. What he has, the offense that he has, that's something that he has in him, and we can work on that, but the defensive part of the game, he's going back to junior and he'll get that."

The Kings have had three players score at least 30 goals in a season over the past 10 (Anze Kopitar, 34, 2009-10; Tyler Toffoli, 31, 2015-16; Jeff Carter, 32, 2016-17; Kopitar, 35, 2017-18). So any concerns about Kaliyev's defense could be secondary if his offense continues to progress.

"It was one of my dreams to play in L.A., a great city with great fans," Kaliyev said. "I was talking to them a lot, so I think it was one of the top teams I think I was going to go [to]. And it happened."

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