Islanders’ Bellows Impresses in Debut

After one NHL game, New York Islanders forward Kieffer Bellows is now only 1,187 points behind his father, Brian Bellows, after scoring his first career point in a 4-3 overtime win against the Dallas Stars. After playing most of the season in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Islanders needed help offensively and chose their former first-round pick to help their struggling third line.

“I liked his game,” said head coach Barry Trotz. “Kieffer had some pace. He was moving his feet. He has some really good awareness away from the puck. One thing that I had forgotten a little bit about him is in small spaces, he’s got hockey strength. First game, I would be very happy if I was him.”


Observations on Bellows

While only playing just over nine minutes, Bellows had a terrific look for his first NHL goal, but Ben Bishop made a fantastic save. However, the rookie showed he can play at both ends of the ice; he forced Jamie Benn to turn the puck over and assisted on Derick Brassard’s first goal in nearly two months.

The Islanders’ third line, which had been a handicap for much of the last 20 games, had Bellows on the wing to replace Tom Kuhnhackl. While, in the future, Bellows could play on the top line with Mat Barzal and some of the other Islanders play-makers, the hole left by Kuhnhackl made it pretty easy for Trotz to slide him in. 

Of note, we did not see Bellows on the power play. The Islanders were clearly monitoring his ice-time in his debut against one of the best teams in the NHL, but they could really use him on the power play. Until the final five minutes of the game, the Islanders were 0-4 with the man advantage. Brock Nelson did score the game-tying goal, but it was called back for goaltender interference. Barzal quickly scored after that to tie the game. All of that offense came from the first power-play unit; it’s the second group that has really struggled. 

Kieffer Bellows New York Islanders
Kieffer Bellows, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Bellows needs to replace Brassard on the power play and learn from Nelson, who the Islanders rely on to shoot when up a man. They both have terrific shots and can mimic each other to be successful. 

Can Bellows Stay?

The biggest question when it comes to the rookies, is how long they will stay. Cole Bardreau, Oliver Wahlstrom and Otto Koivula all made their NHL debut this season, mostly as injury replacements. Despite that Cal Clutterbuck is still out after wrist surgery, Bellows was called up to create more offense. With a handful of games to go before the trade deadline, he should see a stretch of playing time.

Even if the Islanders are able to acquire a piece at the trade deadline, Bellows should still have a role with the big club. Trotz mentioned after the last game that he will dress the best 12 forwards that he believes gives the team a chance to win. If that’s the case and Bellows continues to play well, we could see some veterans sitting in the press box. 

Up Next

Bellows’ real test will be in the next few games. Trotz mentioned that adrenaline could take over in a player’s first game, but he still believes his rookie forward can make an impact. The Islanders will finish their three-game homestand on Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings before they face both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals on the road for two of their toughest games this season.

While New York has been in a playoff spot virtually all season, they sit only three points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes but have two games in hand on both teams with a busy February ahead.

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