The 21-year-old former Sheffield Steelers and Sheffield Steeldogs’ winger had enjoyed a promising start to life with the Arizona Coyotes’ AHL affiliate, Tucson Roadrunners, posting three points – including two goals – in eight games, as part of the first season in his three-year entry level deal.
But the GB international suffered what turned out to be an ACL injury in the November 6 defeat to Henderson Silver Knights, prompting surgery which has ruled him out for the rest of the campaign, including next May’s world championships with GB in Finland.
The Maltby-born forward will continue with his rehabilitation out in Arizona for the foreseeable future with a view to returning to action next Autumn.
It’s the latest in a number of setbacks for Kirk, who saw the second season of his time with Peterborough Petes hampered by injury before the campaign was ended early because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But, despite the serious blow to his hopes of making progress towards a possible NHL call-up by the Coyotes, Kirk is determined to come out of the situation stronger for it.
“It is so disappointing, but I am focused and determined to come back stronger,” said Kirk.
“I know it will be a long process but I am young and have time on my side. My aspirations remain the same going forward and I just want get back to training as soon as I can and begin the road to recovery. I have received so many messages from people wishing me well and that means a lot.”
Coyotes’ head coach Andre Tourigny said he was confident Kirk would bounce back.
“This is a bump in the road for him but if you want to become a hockey player you have to learn to battle through those bumps,” said Tourigny. “We like his talent, we like the kid, he’s a really good person and he will bounce back.
“He has a lot of talent and needs to keep developing. It’s unfortunate but that’s just the way it is. I felt for him as a person, I want him to keep his head up and keep grinding through. But that stuff happens, it happened to him, but it’s happened to other guys before him.”
On missing next year’s world championships, where this year he finished as joint-top goalscorer, a factor which helped earn him his deal with the Coyotes, Kirk added: “I am pretty gutted not to be going to Finland. We’ve had a great few years as a team, so I am sad that I will not be a part of it next year.
“But I will be watching from afar and cheering on the boys. We have a great team and have made so many strides forward in recent seasons. I have no doubt we can be competitive again next year. We have shown over the past two tournaments we can play on the big stage.”