The New York Islanders were the story of the NHL season throughout October and November. Even with all the injuries they’ve had, New York just kept on winning with all their replacements from the American Hockey League. As the Islanders enter the New Year, they are in need of scoring help. While it is tough to make a trade at this time of the season, New York needs to call up their highly talented prospect, Kieffer Bellows.
Currently 21 years old, Bellows was drafted by the Islanders in 2016. He played college hockey at Boston University and represented the United States at the World Junior Championship in 2018. He has also played in the Western Hockey League and has now had extended time in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
While the plan was most likely to keep Bellows in Bridgeport this season, the lack of scoring from guys like Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey has made a move like this necessary. After only scoring 12 goals last season in the AHL and one goal for the majority of this season, Bellows scored 13 times in the past 17 games and was awarded the CCM/AHL Player of the Month for December including his first professional hat trick.
“Through that first year I went through a lot of ups and downs and I think that tested my mental strength,” Bellows said. “Carrying that over into this year was huge. Especially with that start that I had. I was playing well, like I said. Just going through that mental grind when you’re not scoring or pucks aren’t going your way, just not getting down on yourself.NHL.com
Lack of Offense
It was never more obvious than the past two games that the Islanders needed help offensively. Facing MacKenzie Blackwood and Michael Hutchinson, the Islanders only scored one goal in back-to-back losses. Despite missing time with injury, Eberle only has three goals all season and had been replaced on the top line by Tom Kuhnhackl at one point. With Cal Clutterbuck out, the Islanders don’t have their regular fourth line of Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Clutterbuck forcing Ross Johnston into top-six minutes before changes to their lines on Saturday.
Head coach Barry Trotz played Bailey with Mat Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier on the first line on Saturday, but it still didn’t turn out to much in their 3-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. That line has shown success in the past, but with a second line of Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Eberle, the Islanders have a weak bottom-six. The only players this season that have produced for an extended period of time is their lone All-Star in Barzal, plus Nelson and Beauvillier.
Should the Islanders bring Bellows up, they cannot afford to play him with guys like Kuhnhackl and Johnston. The Islanders have had a history of bringing up players and burying them on the fourth line. Bellows is playing the best hockey of his young career and needs to find himself with a playmaker like Barzal. He also can help the power play which has been dreadful. They are under 20 percent and have not scored in their last eleven tries stretching over six games. For a guy that doesn’t have much size, Bellows has an incredible wrist shot similar to the one of Nelson.
The Islanders are also wasting some very solid goaltending from Semyon Varlamov, who just recently took over the starting position after rotating with Thomas Greiss the first three months of the season. The Islanders also lost their best shutdown defender in Adam Pelech which means they cannot rely on winning every game 2-1.
For those that have heard of the last name before, Bellows’ father, Brian, played in over 1,200 games and scored 485 goals and had over 1,000 points in his career. If the Islanders were able to get half of that from their young prospect, the Islanders will have themselves a steal with the 19th pick in 2016.
New York’s schedule will also start to pick up this week with a back-to-back to begin the week before a big game against the Boston Bruins on Saturday. The Islanders will also face their crosstown rivals in the New York Rangers three times in a stretch of eight days in games that are starting to become more important with the success of the Metropolitan Division.