The Pittsburgh Penguins have work to do since their 2020-21 season is now over. The project for the front office is to make the team better next season than the current one. However, with the Penguins out of cap space, they will need to be creative in finding an answer to that problem. One of those answers may be right in their own organization in the form of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Jordy Bellerive.
The Penguins have been an offensive team for years now, but what they have lacked on the roster is a complete player. Complete in the meaning of produces offense, good in the neutral zone, defensively responsible, plays power play, penalty kill, an agitator, and can fight on a regular basis. Enter Bellerive.
Where it All Began
Bellerive is a 22-year-old center who hails from North Vancouver, British Columbia. At 5-feet-11 and 194 pounds, he is a tank on skates. As an all-around talent, he has had to change his game from an offensive threat to a 200-foot player in order to get the attention of Penguins management. The Penguins signed Bellerive to a three-year, entry-level contract as an undrafted free agent on Sept. 16, 2017. All he has accomplished was take his game to another level, and he may be closer than ever to securing a permanent spot on the Penguins’ 2021-22 roster.
Pittsburgh lacks a certain type of player that has sandpaper in his game and can fight to protect Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Bellerive is not one to back down from a fight, as he has fought players and tough guys much bigger than him. From the 2015-16 season to the 2020-21 season, he only recorded 18 fights, but most of those were against legit tough guys. At that time, he was also playing on the power play, penalty kill and producing on the offensive end. For a player comparable, he most resembles former Penguin Matt Barnaby. Both play the same type of game, similar in size, but Bellerive is more productive on the offensive end.
Scary Incident Almost Costs Him Career
Playing for the NHL Penguins is still a dream for Bellerive, but even playing for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton almost did not happen, as he was involved in a scary scene that almost costs him his hockey-playing career. In June of 2018, the upper body of Bellerive was badly burned in a bachelor party fire that nearly derailed his entire career. Thankfully, he recovered and resumed his playing career.
Bellerive does have a few on-ice accomplishments, including being named to the 2017-18 WHL (East) Second All-Star Team. He then transformed himself into an all-around player that got him noticed by scouts. In his final WHL season, as captain of the 2018-19 Lethbridge Hurricanes, he posted 33 goals and 50 assists for 83 points in only 68 games. He also had 59 penalty minutes and was a plus +27. This past season with Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton, he posted 10 goals and 8 assists for 18 points in 29 games but also accounted for 49 penalty minutes. Bellerive posted 16 points on 10 goals and 6 assists in his final 26 games, including some second power-play unit time, before the AHL suspended play. He also has shown in his career he can produce in the playoffs as well.
Determination Is the Key
Bellerive is a complete player, but he is far from perfect. He does need to work on his two-way game by turning it from a good into an elite NHL game. There is also a transformation period he will go through going from the AHL to the NHL. He can do this by putting in more ice time and working with the right people this offseason. Although most think he is most suited for a bottom-6 role with the Penguins, he is determined to make the Penguins as a top-6 forward. His release is blazing quick but deceptive enough to catch the defense off guard. He is also an underrated passer who can thread the needle to teammates through a wave of opponents’ skates.
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Whether he is a regular, a call-up for emergency services or on the taxi squad, he could be a real asset for the Penguins club. His speed, creativity, and physical play could be useful, especially in the playoffs against bigger teams like the rival Washington Capitals. Bellerive is under contract with the Penguins until 2021-22, with a cap hit of $733,333. Therefore, he can really use this time left on his deal to show the Penguins brass he really belongs. He could very well earn an extension if he duplicates, or exceeds, the past couple of seasons. He will be in the Penguins organization somewhere, as he is exempt from the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft. Bellerive does bring everything, including the kitchen sink, to the game of hockey. He always gives it his all, playing every game like it is his last.
Out of His Hands
Bellerive has nothing left to prove, as he’s shown he can play against anyone and that his size should not be a factor. He has put in the work, bled, and played his heart out for the Penguins organization. This offseason, Bellerive will once again try to convince the Penguins he deserves a spot. Regardless of where he does play next season, he will certainly be drawing attention, good or bad, from opponents on the ice. Will the front office pay even more attention to his game and give him a shot at the big time? He has played his way into contention.