Last Word on Hockey
Kaliyev has immense skill. His ability to score goals is amongst the best in this class. He also has high-end hockey sense, and his playmaking abilities are starting to rival his goal-scoring skills. However, there are also big questions about his effort level and his defensive game. Kaliyev is the classic boom or bust prospect. He could become an elite-level goal scorer, or he could flame out entirely, or land almost anywhere in between. Development will need to be a priority here. In terms of playing style, he is comparable to Alex Kovalev, however, this is a style comparison only and not one based on skill or ability.
Kaliyev is a wild ride to watch. Most of these guys you can get a solid handle on in a couple of viewings. Kaliyev I went on to watch several more games than normal because I saw a guy who had a 50-goal season but all I saw was a guy floating around the ice and not really being a dangerous player. And then there’s a shift or two where he’s all over the puck and dominating play. What?
I’ve got a pretty reserved nature when it comes to prospect evaluation and my bias lends towards staying away from guys who have major engagement questions as teenagers. If you love the game and want to go all the way, you should be hungry as ever in your draft season, right? How can there be so many moments where Kaliyev isn’t just disengaged but completely out of sorts on the ice and a team still be comfortable taking him in the first round?
His shot, for one. He has an elite shot that rivals Caufield’s for top in the draft class. You don’t fall into a 50-goal season in the OHL as a teenager without being able to wire pucks home. He’s not an explosive skater but he’s strong on skates and can be hard to remove from the puck when he wants to be. His play away from the puck is probably defined in the eye of the watcher: Is he floating or finding open space and letting the defense sag off him? Whichever way you land probably goes a long way towards determining how you feel about him. The bottom line is Kaliyev is an electric offensive player…when he wants to be. He’s apathetic defensively and has shown a complete lack of interest in that side of the game.
Through the positives and negatives, I can’t really say Kaliyev would be a poor fit for Colorado. They tend to like high-motor guys who express a deep love for the game so taking Kaliyev would represent a major disconnect from their drafting history but given the iffy success of their drafts, maybe a new approach is required at a time like this.
Colorado having the fourth pick almost gives them a shield for whatever happens at 16. For most, as long as they make the right call at four, whatever happens at 16 could be considered gravy. Kaliyev is a pure boom or bust prospect. You’re either getting an offensive star or a guy who we all look back on and say “remember him?”
I don’t have a strong opinion about whether Colorado should take the leap or not. There are good arguments both ways but if they do, he should be there at 16. He certainly would be a home run swing.