LA Kings: Arthur Kaliyev applauded for his defensive improvements

Arthur Kaliyev had a cup of coffee with the LA Kings to this point, but he’s made tremendous strides in his defensive game in Ontario.

When the LA Kings took Arthur Kaliyev with the 33rd overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, two of the biggest knocks were his skating and defensive liabilities. A pure shooter at the time that amassed an even split of 51 goals and 51 assists in 67 games during his draft year. With the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, Kaliyev was a tremendous asset offensively but recorded a -13.

Like many players in his situation, Kaliyev has been able to play at the AHL level with the Ontario Reign, with the OHL season having been canceled due to the ongoing issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 19-year-old made his NHL debut against the Ducks earlier this season, tallying his first Kings goal on a beautiful play in front of the goal crease.

Since then, though, he found a more permanent role with the Reign and has thrived playing alongside fellow Team USA World Juniors teammate Alex Turcotte and Finnish centerman Rasmus Kupari. Kaliyev leads the Reign with 21 points and he’s tied for the fifth-most points among AHL rookies.

Through 32 AHL games, he sits at a +1 rating, and that’s in large part to the defensive improvements he’s made under head coach John Wroblewski.

“Arty has bought in completely on the idea of being a 200-foot player,” Wroblewski noted on Sunday after the Reign’s 4-2 loss. “And he’s one of our more reliable players. In our defensive system, he’s still got some things to work on and our neutral-zone defense, and that’s a fine art. I think not many players have played in a 1-3-1 before.”

With Quinton Byfield promoted to the LA Kings taxi squad on Monday, the team’s 2020 second overall pick is likely a good bet to make his debut later this week after getting comfortable. The Kings have just two call-ups left with 10 games remaining.

Kaliyev can play in five more NHL games without burning a year off his three-year entry-level contract. With the schedule littered with games against the Ducks, as noted, a team Kaliyev debuted and scored against, might we see Kaliyev join his AHL teammate on the NHL roster soon?

If not, it’s certainly not for lack of effort.

“Hats off to him for his dedication, and even when pucks weren’t going in for him, he was frustrated with that,” Wroblewski added. “He didn’t change his game. He didn’t revert back to junior habits. He just kept pushing for the end. He has faith in the system, and the work ethic that he was putting in has been commendable.”