The Portland Winterhawks saw their season come to a close to the Everett Silvertips on Friday night, and with that star forward Kieffer Bellows must begin to contemplate what the future holds for his career and where he will play next season.
The soon to be 20-year-old Bellows was drafted 19th overall by the New York Islanders in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. In the past four seasons, he has bounced around on four different teams, but not in part due to his lack of development. Rather, his development has been strikingly positive, and Bellows has developed into one of the best prospects in the United States’ system, and subsequently the Islanders’ system.
Bellows Finds Success Despite Bouncing Around
Prior to being drafted, Bellows played one season for the Sioux City Stampede of the USHL, where he posted 52 points in 58 games, and one season for the United States National Under-18 Team, where he posted 32 points in 23 games. The latter total was good enough for second on the team and only five points shy of Clayton Keller.
Bellows then jumped to Boston University where he, yet again, spent only one season. Sitting behind Jordan Greenway, a Minnesota Wild draft pick who saw time in the NHL and at the Olympics this season, in the depth chart, Bellows only put up 14 points in 34 games.
The 2017-18 season, however, was an entirely different story for the Edina, Minn. native. He made the jump to the Western Hockey League, where he joined the Portland Winterhawks, who had previously selected him in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. In recent times, the WHL has become known for pumping out NHL talent, and the Islanders can look no further for proof of that than Mathew Barzal.
Bellows, alongside Vegas Golden Knights 2017 sixth overall pick Cody Glass, began to tear up the league. In 56 games, he finished with a remarkable 41 goals and 74 points. The 41 goals put him tied for 15th in the league. Bellows proved to be no less of a pest either, picking up 63 penalty minutes in that time as well.
He proved to be no slouch in the playoffs as well posting 13 points in 12 games. In the midst of all of this, nonetheless, he potted seven goals in six games, including two against Russia in the quarterfinals, for the United States at the World Juniors in Buffalo.
It’s All in the Family for Bellows
In many senses for Bellows, this career path follows that of his father, Brian, who was drafted second overall by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft. Brian played two seasons for the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL before making the leap to the NHL, albeit his Minnesota debut was in the same year that he was drafted.
It is not unreasonable to believe that Kieffer could be following suit, or even on pace to jump to the Islanders even earlier than expected. He could spend the 2018-19 season in Bridgeport, and follow the same path as Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang, or he could make the Islanders opening night roster.
There will certainly be spots up for the taking, so it is up to Bellows to prove himself. Nikolay Kulemin is unlikely to return, and Alan Quine, Chris Wagner, and Shane Prince should be nothing more than depth pieces in case of injury. The John Tavares situation looms large as well, which will have an impact on how the lineup shuffles. If he showcases his skills well enough, Bellows could easily find himself in a middle-six left wing role come October.
At the end of the day, Bellows has a long road ahead of him in his career. His father finished his career at 1,188 games played, and even 75 percent of that total from Bellows would be considered a huge success. If he continues in his rapid development, he will be well on his way, and that is the only thing the Islanders can dream for at the moment.