The Islanders have another little break to gather themselves and get right. Thankfully, this break comes off a solid stretch of games for the team. A big part of the recent success is Kieffer Bellows.
Since being drafted in the first round of the 2016 NHL draft, Bellows has had minimal looks in the starting lineup for Barry Trotz. Trotz has had a winning team since joining the Islanders and can use that as a reason for limiting the youth into the lineup.
Bellows got a taste of the NHL in the 2019-20 season, playing eight games. Touted as a top six forward prospect, Bellows showed flashes of his potential. In eight games, Bellows produced two goals and an assist. One of the goals was a game winning goal to boost his confidence.
Expectedly, Trotz sat Bellows and provided the youngster with instructions to improve away from the puck. In 2020-21, Bellows saw 14 games of action with three goals, again, one game winner.
Bellows possesses a sneaky good shot and has never been afraid to use it. In the 2017-18 WHL season, Bellows put up 41 goals for the Portland Winterhawks and added 33 helpers. Like Oliver Wahlstrom, the Islanders possessed two snipers in the system.
The success of the Islanders over the last three seasons, combined with Lou Lamoriello’s ability to acquire important veterans, has naturally been destructive to Bellows and other young players’ development. Credit Lamoriello for not only keeping Bellows from the expansion, Seattle Kraken, but resisting the temptation to involve him a trade for a veteran.
As the frustration has grown with the limitation in Wahlstrom’s playing time and role over the last two seasons, more can be said for Bellows. Bellows plays the game hard and does not shy from the physical altercations. Still, a sniper needs to score goals to stay in the lineup.
In the case of many scorers is the tendency for hot and cold streaks. The luxury of being a veteran is that the coaching staff will give a veteran the chance to play out of the cold streak. The young players will have to play perfectly in every aspect of their game if they are not scoring or they can watch from the suites.
Bellows has four points in his last three games and has significantly improved the Power Play from the point. The workload is still slim, but obviously the team has a better chance of winning with Bellows in the lineup.
Bellows Hard Work Pays Off
To say that Bellows has earned the right to play is an under statement. Kyle Palmeri began skating at practice today and will soon be available to play again. Bellows certainly has earned the playing time over an under performing Palmeri.
More importantly. Bellows has earned the opportunity to fail. Yes, I said fail. A player of his caliber needs the opportunity to keep in the lineup despite goal production. A chance for Bellows to build confidence with playing time would do wonders for the sustainability of his game.
Bellows is not afraid to shoot with 18 shots in 14 games this season. The opportunity to score will come with the continued hard work and pucks to the net. This is a quality that some of the other veterans could learn from Bellows.
As hot as Bellows is now, it is hard to ask him to stay at this pace. But this is a player that brings a lot of much needed energy to the team. Good or bad, Bellows needs to trust his name will be in the lineup night in and night out.