When the NY Islanders drafted Kieffer Bellows 19th overall at the 2016 NHL Draft, they expected a power-forward who could bring it every night with his shot. Now, six years later, the organization is still waiting for that player to show up night-in and night-out. Bellows will enter yet another training camp with a straightforward task on his mind - to become an everyday player.
After signing his one-year $1.2M contract with the Isles on Aug. 22, the Edina, MN native made it clear that he already sees himself as a regular in the lineup:
"I mean, I view myself as being a regular in a lineup. That’s what I want to be. I want to be making a big impact from day one. That’s what I plan to do. I plan to be good defensively but also be a big offensive player, use my shot, score some goals for this team."- Kieffer Bellows
Bellows has been anything but a regular in the Isles' lineup but began to show promise on the back end of last season. On opening night last year in Sunrise, FL, Bellows was not named to the opening night roster. However, he did force himself into the lineup for more than 50% of the team's games, appearing in 45.
In those 45 games, Bellows tallied 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) in the most active season of his NHL tenure. His final nine games of the season were his most impressive string of games as he scored twice and added four assists. In his previous two seasons as a member of the Islanders, he appeared in eight and 14 games, totaling only six points (three goals, three assists) combined.
Though he appeared in a career-high number of games, Bellows struggled to see ice-time on the days he would dress. As former head coach Barry Trotz showed his reluctance to give players with minimal experience considerable minutes, Bellows averaged the third lowest TOI (time-on-ice) for the team, averaging only 11:50 per game. The only players to trail Bellows in TOI were fourth-liners Matt Martin (11:26) and Ross Johnston (10:16).
According to DailyFaceoff, it looks like Bellows may be on the outside looking in come opening night. He'll likely start the season as the team's 13th/14th forward alongside Johnston barring any pre-season injuries to the team. There is an outside chance that Bellows can impress the coaching staff and force management's hand into giving him a spot in the top-12. If he were to replace anyone, it would likely be Oliver Wahlstrom, but Lane Lambert will make that decision come mid-October.
Playing on a "prove it" deal, this season could be Bellows' final chance to impress the organization and become a regular on the lineup card. Bellows has an NHL-caliber shot but needs to add more to his arsenal to be able to utilize his goal-scoring abilities. If he fails to leave a lasting impression, he could see himself shipped out at the deadline or during the next off-season.