After much reading, review of videos, and contemplation, the Canes Country crew has decided to select Kieffer Bellows with the Hurricanes' 13th overall pick. Before I explain the reasoning for the pick, let's take a look at the previous selections.
Gone are Logan Brown, Clayton Keller, and Tyson Jost, players who have slipped to number 13 on some mock drafts, but who are normally ranked higher. At this point, there were still several fine players available, among them Michael McLeod, Luke Kunin, Julien Gauthier, and others, but we chose Bellows.
In my mind, the decision came down to McLeod and Bellows.
Personally, I was leaning toward McLeod at first because he has been ranked above this spot by many experts. He has good size, is noted for his two-way game, has tremendous compete level, and might be the fastest skater in the draft. But Kyle and "Notopie" both said they preferred Bellows, so I looked again.
The Red Line Report gives accolade after accolade for McLeod but then says this-
"his shot is weak and he is a crest shooter who lacks a finishing touch."
A "crest shooter"?
Shooting might very well be his only weakness but for a team which lacks accurate shooters and is in dire need of scoring, it's a weakness that cannot be ignored. A few other rating services said similar things about his shot.
Bellows is known as a pure sniper, a scoring machine.
In 2015-16, he led the USDP with 50 goals in 62 games, scored 16 more goals in 23 games in the USHL, and had five goals and three assists totaling eight points for Team USA in the World Juniors Tournament.
If you are thinking 50 goals for the United States Development Team in one season is pretty good, you would be right. Only four players have scored 50 goals or more in the history of the USDP, Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, and now Bellows.
That's impressive company.
But Bellows does not come without some negatives of his own.
"Consistency and defensive effort is lacking at times," says the Red Line Report. Other scouts have mentioned consistency issues as well.
He admits in some interviews that he is working on that and as a matter of fact has committed to working hard on all areas of his game.
Here are the positives and there are many.
"Bellows is a well-built goal scorer with a low center of gravity who can play a punishing, heavy yet cerebral game. He’s a good skater with tremendous balance and moves well laterally. And while he used play center for Edina’s powerhouse high school program, Bellows is most certainly better suited as a shooter from the flank. He’s built like a Mack truck and plays with fire, using tremendous athleticism and work ethic to maintain his compete level, even during extended shifts. He’s extremely difficult to move off the puck, and he’s proven to be a load to handle for some of the NCAA’s bigger defensemen. Bellows is a hard, accurate passer, but can also feather a pass off the rush or lead his teammates with timing and precision."
"Kieffer Bellows is a skilled power forward that can dominate games. Possesses high end puckhandling ability as well as a crisp, accurate release on his shot. Proficient forechecker and loves to win puck battles, which stands out as a consistent part of his game. Strong skater that can bull through the opposition or go around them. Drives the net hard and is a decisive finisher. All-in-all, a competitor that punishes the opposition physically, as well as on the scoreboard. (Curtis Joe, EP 2016)"
More from the Red Line Report
"One of the best pure scorers in the draft, shows real killer instinct around the net. Has an absolutely wicked shot. Snaps off heavy, rocket wristers on the fly, over-powering goalies. Doesn't need much time or space to get away dangerous shots and can create his own space and offense. Knows how to get himself into prime scoring position and never fumbles passes when linemates set him up, he buries those chances. Thickly built through the core and chest and when churning his feet, pinballs around the ice, knocking guys off the puck and bullies his way to the net. He is an underrated passer. "
"I think he's going to be the finisher and the sniper. He can play on the wing and he's very adept at getting open for shooting lanes. He can distribute, but there are not many people that can shoot it like him and finish like him.
For me, the only way you pass on him [in the draft] is if someone that you like better happens to be there and that can happen, certainly," said David Gregory of NHL Central Scouting. "With any player, when you're at the top end of the draft, they're just going to be someone that may need a defenseman ahead of a forward, and it comes down to that. I don't see a lot of deficiencies in his game. Having seen him play for the past three years, I've seen him just get better and better.
"I'd say outside of the offense, he's a real aggressive player," U.S. National U-18 coach Danton Cole said. "He's physical on the forecheck and back pressure. He's definitely a shooter, I mean, he looks to shoot the puck and he has that ability, I think, in today's game, which is hard to do, is to get the pucks on the net from all kinds of odd angles and not just a soft shot; I mean he gets it on hard, it's a goal-scorer shot. The biggest thing everyone notices is the result of that, and the goal scoring. He scores goals."
I think you make a mistake if you assume he's not a good passer," Cole said. "It's nice seeing him every day in practice, and in different situations and he can move a puck very well; he sees the openings. He understands some of the theory of offense and understands setting up triangles and where the open guy is. Now that doesn't mean he's not going to take his shots because he will, but I think also, like his defense, I think it's an underrated part of his game … We like our guys to be a little more complete than that, and he certainly is."
Kieffer is the son of former All Star and high scoring forward, Brian Bellows who was almost a point a game player for 1,188 NHL games. The Red Line Report also says that the apple does not fall far from the tree here and that is lofty praise indeed.
In this position in the draft, the Hurricanes could certainly do worse than Bellows. He needs a bit more development and work on his overall game, but should accomplish that at Boston University in a year or two.
I will leave you with a couple videos. That shot really is pretty wicked.