LA Kings: Arthur Kaliyev says he’s preparing for potential debut

LA Kings Training Camp (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
LA Kings Training Camp (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images) /

With the recent news of Andreas Athanasiou and Blake Lizotte both being placed on the COVID protocol list, it seems easy for fans of the LA Kings to be discouraged, and even frustrated. However, misfortune for one — or, in this case, two — means opportunity for another.

Enter Arthur Kaliyev.

Last month, Kaliyev was one of the central topics of conversation surrounding the 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton, and for good reason.

After scoring four goals and two assists in five games for Team USA in the previous year’s installment of the tournament, Kaliyev gave quite the encore last month. In seven games, the Kings prospect netted three goals and five assists. This time, though, he helped Team USA win their first gold medal at the tournament since 2017.

Still, the youngster had no professional playing experience under his belt at this juncture. Five preseason games in the AHL with the Ontario Reign, though, did help. But on Saturday night, Kaliyev was called up to the Kings’ taxi squad and on Sunday, took part in his first practice with the big club.

The 19-year-old spoke to the media on Sunday following said practice, addressing, among other areas, how he’s been trying to balance fitting in and impressing his new coaches.

“I just go out there and try to do my hardest,” Kaliyev said. “Just trying to do my thing and trying my best like I do [in Ontario] and here.”

While the Reign may have been his primary focus for the past few weeks, Kaliyev did admit that he’s been watching Kings games and keeping an eye on what to expect with the big club.

“Oh yeah, I’ve been watching a ton of games,” the right-winger noted. “Seeing how they’re playing in systems and that sort of thing, so it’s been pretty well.”

While he may only have a few games to use as a measuring stick, so to speak, the youngster went on to cover his transition into the pro ranks from junior.

“It’s been a bit more physical, faster,” Kaliyev observed. “Every game got better, got more used to it with the game pace. So, I think it was pretty well the last couple of games. Kept getting better every single game.”

In his five preseason games with the Reign, Kaliyev was asked how he benefited from the tutelage of the club’s new coach, John Wroblewski.

“I thought Wrobo was a really great coach,” Kaliyev emphasized. “He’s well system-wise, he’s a really, really good coach on pushing us to get better every single game. He likes offense and has a lot of details in our D-zone. He’s doing a really good job so far.”

It may be unknown at this juncture whether he will be making his NHL debut on Tuesday but Arthur Kaliyev certainly appears to be ready to get his feet wet with the Kings regardless. Skeptics may argue that five preseason games aren’t nearly enough to prepare the young sniper for the next level. In fairness, Kaliyev’s NHL readiness was apparent long before last month.

Speaking of last month, though, most, if not all, who tuned into the World Juniors are sold on Kaliyev’s capabilities. This goes especially for fans of Team USA and somewhat ambivalently by fans of those countries Kaliyev and the Americans defeated, especially Team Canada (trust me).

Still, this week may very well be Arthur Kaliyev’s unofficial audition for the Kings and while it is unfortunate that roster room was made due to the COVID protocol list, an opportunity is still just that: an opportunity.

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One practice is down, but now we will see what the next few days have in store for the Uzbek-born prospect. So, perhaps, come Tuesday night, when the Kings sport their much-anticipated Retro Reverse jerseys for the first time, we will see No. 34 (changing from No. 52) and hope that Arthur Kaliyev’s performance will be an auspicious sign of things to come.