Arthur Kaliyev likes the No. 34. He likes it so much, in fact, that it’s been on the back of his jersey in every season of hockey he’s played. Kaliyev has no such attachment to No. 33, but what it represents will be in the back of his mind every time he takes the ice from here on out.
The L.A. Kings picked Kaliyev 33rd overall in the second round of the 2019 draft, and he’s determined to prove that every team that passed on him missed out on something special. “I want to prove to other teams they made a mistake not drafting me,” Kaliyev said.
He put those teams on notice early, finding the back of the net at 5:32 of the second period in his NHL debut Feb. 2, 2021 against Anaheim. “It was a really special moment,” said Kaliyev, who became the 21st King to score in his first NHL game.
Los Angeles sent Kaliyev back to its AHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign, after the game. That early-February contest with the divisional-rival Ducks was the only NHL action Kaliyev appeared in during 2020-21. But more memorable moments were in store for the right winger. “He’s dangerous when he’s got the puck in and around the net,” said Kings coach Todd McLellan.
Kaliyev spent all of 2021-22 in the NHL, scoring 14 goals and 27 points in 80 games. He tied for 12th in rookie goal-scoring. His six power-play goals placed him second among NHL freshman behind only Trevor Zegras.
Although he dropped to the second round of the draft, Kaliyev’s ability to make a sudden impact with his goal-scoring prowess should surprise no one. He scored 126 goals in 192 games across three seasons with the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, developing a reputation as a pure scorer with a devastating shot and a strong nose for the net. Kaliyev’s career high of 51 goals in his 2018-19 draft year placed him fourth among OHL lamplighters.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder is not a smooth skater, but he has an undeniable knack for getting himself in the right place at the right time. “The puck seems to follow him around,” said Kings director of player development Glen Murray. “He goes to the spot where you can score goals. It’s just a gift he has.”
Added Kaliyev: “I try to find the open spots for teammates to find me.” A left-handed shot, Kaliyev prefers playing the off-wing because “you are able to take those one-timers.” That one-time shot has quickly become his calling card.
Kaliyev, 21, has always been able to position himself for success, even if the route wasn’t always conventional. Born in Uzbekistan, he moved to the U.S. with his family at two and fell in love with hockey while growing up in the New York City borough of Staten Island.
By the time Kaliyev was a teenager, hockey had become the focal point of his life. “When I was 13, I got invited to Little Caesars camp in Detroit,” he said. “It was probably a top-five team in the country. When I made the team, I realized I could be a really good player.”
So Kaliyev and his family left New York for Michigan, where he played for the Little Caesars and Compuware programs before Hamilton made him the 26th pick of the 2017 OHL priority selection – one slot before Saginaw nabbed NCAA-bound future King Alex Turcotte.
Kaliyev responded with 31 goals during his rookie season with the Bulldogs. “After his first year,” Hamilton GM-president Steve Staios said, “people were asking ‘how did you get him at 26?’ It’s amazing how the two drafts sort of mimic themselves, the Ontario League and the National League, and I think it’s going to turn out just as well for the L.A. Kings as it did for the Hamilton Bulldogs.”
It worked out well for Team USA at the 2021 WJC, too. Kaliyev had three goals and five assists as the Americans struck gold in Edmonton, where he played alongside future Kings Turcotte and Brock Faber.
When Kaliyev arrived in L.A., he carried a well-earned reputation for being a sniper and for the unique tape job on his stick, with the knob resembling the grip on a tennis racquet. Fittingly, Kaliyev’s sister, 18-year-old Elvina Kalieva, is a promising Florida-based tennis player who made her grand-slam debut in mixed doubles at last year’s U.S. Open.
Kaliyev wants to build a reputation for being a three-zone player. “I want to play a 200-foot game,” he said. “Not just someone trying to score every shift. Playing great D-zone, playing the coach’s system. Contributing offensively, whether it’s scoring or making plays.”
Kaliyev has worked on those aspects of his game while adjusting to the pros. He scored 14 goals in 40 AHL games in 2020-21 before making the jump this season. “It’s more physical, faster,” Kaliyev said. “Every game got better. I got more used to the game’s pace.”
And if that improvement continues, teams will indeed rue the day they overlooked him at the draft.