This past week the New York Islanders called up Kieffer Bellows. Many Islander fans and hockey prognosticators had given up on Bellows. The early returns show how patience is a must when it comes to prospects.
Looking for an internal option to help their third-line, the New York Islanders President and GM, Lou Lamoriello called up Kieffer Bellows. Barry Trotz inserted him into the lineup and so far the team has been rewarded. There are lessons to be learned regarding the beginning of Bellows’s professional career.
Bellows’s professional career started out in 2016 when he was a first-round pick by the Islanders (19th overall). Many thought the big-bodied winger (6’1, 195 lbs) had the potential to be a top-six forward and was a strong pick by the blue and orange.
But since being drafted Bellows went through a lot of ups and downs, in fact, a lot more downs than ups. Other than his training camp in September of 2018 (first year under Trotz) and his recent surge in Bridgeport (last two months) it’s been a struggle for
Bellows struggled at Boston University before moving on to junior hockey. Despite a strong training camp last season, the AHL was a big learning process for Kieffer. Last year Bellows only recorded 12 goals and 19 points in 73 games for Bridgeport.
This season started out even worse for Bellows in Bridgeport. In fact, he winded up watching from the stands as a healthy scratch. Since then though things have come together for the kid from Edina, Minnesota and now he is in the show. Another example where patience is a must for any general manager.
Patience is Required
Now more than ever it’s tough to have patience when it comes to NHL prospects. Over the last few seasons, kids enter the NHL at a much faster rate than ever before. Because of that, it’s very easy to write-off a top prospect very quickly.
If you’re a first-round draft pick the expectations for you are very high, from the fan base as well as experts who grade prospects. If you’re not an impact player sooner rather than later you can easily be labeled as a failed first-round pick.
That’s a lot to shoulder for anyone let alone a kid who is still a teenager for another two years who is trying to find his way as a professional athlete.
Just because Mathew Barzal’s timeline was faster than Bellows doesn’t mean Kieffer is a bust. Look at Anthony Beauvillier’s progress as a player as an example. He started in the NHL as a teenager and each year he has developed as a player with this season is where he took a big leap forward. Most of the time it takes time with young players.
Now having said all of that no one is saying Bellows is destined for stardom. However, he looks like a player that can be a key ingredient for the Isles moving forward. Remember Islander fans most of the time it takes patience even when it comes to top prospects.