50 goals with the USNTDP is no easy feat. In fact, the half-century mark had been reached just once before Kieffer Bellows reached it this season. Bellows is one of the top goalscorers in USNTDP history, up there with Phil Kessel, Auston Matthews, and Jack Eichel.
As a 16-year-old with the Sioux Falls Stampede, he hit 33 goals, and was just two away from leading the entire league. He is also the USHL's all-time best U17 goalscorer, and one of the best point producers. If it's not clear by now, he is an incredible goalscorer.
Birthplace: Edina, Minnesota
Position: Left Wing
Height: 6'0" Weight: 197 lbs
Bellows is a threat to score from just about anywhere in the offensive zone. His bullet of a wrist shot alone is enough to rack up the goals at the USHL level, but he also scores in a variety of ways. Although rarely used a net-front presence (that was Joey Anderson's job), he has shown great ability to finish as a garbage goal scorer. From high in the zone, he fires often and hard, typically utilizing soft hands to create a shooting lane. Not only is his release lightning quick, his late release point is very deceptive.
The lethal wrist shot is his preferred weapon, but he does own an equally as powerful slapshot and a snapshot that he can elevate in a hurry. Excellent at finding soft spots, Bellows is always ready to receive a pass. His one-on-one moves are quite good, too.
He loves to shoot - and to a fault. It's clear that he isn't a high-end playmaker, or even a great one. He generates most of his assists through his shots, or creating havoc around the net. While he is a volume shooter, he routinely takes a low-percentage shots instead of locating a teammate.
A power winger, he loves the highly-contested areas of the ice such as the boards and slot. Bellows is rarely outmuscled on the puck, utilizes his combination of strength, body positioning, and hands to maintain lengthy spells of possession. There's a real purpose behind his hits, particularly in the open ice. However, he often trails behind the play as a result of his "finish every check" mentality.
One area that has seen growth in the fast two seasons is skating. He lacks a separation gear, but his ability to deceptively use his feet has improved. His light edge work is a direct contrast from his heavy, slow-looking straight ahead stride.
Going forward, Bellows will have to make considerable improvements in other aspects of the game. Yes, he can score goals, but he will have to quicken the pace of his game to play it at the NHL level. Furthermore, the hands that he flashes in the offensive zone aren't as evident in the defensive and neutral zones. It will be key for Bellows to improve his play without the puck in order to play with the puck more often as he advances up the ranks.
Bellows—the son of former NHLer Brian Bellows—is the perfect example of a "meat and potatoes"-type player. He plays the game the right way, gets involved in the dirty areas, plays physically and has a drive to succeed. Bellows has a knack for driving to the net, and throwing the opposition off with his deceptive shoulder dips and quick, two-step acceleration. He plays a power-forward style of game, and engages physically, whether by making a check on defense or posting up in the slot for screen attempts. Bellows plays with intensity and drive, a great mix of skill and strength, and is really adept at knowing when to dangle a defender or bull-rush the net. He brings a diverse and mature offensive skill set. Bellows protects the puck very well and is tough to separate from it. He also has a knack of exploiting defenders who over-commit in an attempt to gain leverage. Bellows is dynamite along the wall and goes to tough, high-scoring areas.
Despite not being big by NHL standards, he is very physically mature and imposes his will on the ice. Bellows is a natural goal-scorer and possesses a heavy shot. He knows it’s a weapon and isn’t afraid to pull the trigger from anywhere in the offensive zone. He’s mastered the lost art of the high-velocity backhand; goalies need to be wary anytime he has the puck on his stick in close. Bellows also has an understated intelligence in the offensive zone: he seems to always be in the right place at the right time, and he finds soft spots to get open for one-timers. He plays with a dogged determination, is relentless in puck pursuit, exploits mistakes and wins battles. He also shows a bit of a mean streak and isn’t afraid to mix it up at all.
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.
Bellows’ approach towards every shift is to keep himself involved at all times in order to acquire the puck, using his physical gifts and wide frame to protect it as he maneuvers towards the net. Take our word for it – if a defender is nervous going back for the puck, Bellows will sniff it out and exploit that fear. He plays an aggressive, sometimes stubborn game, often too much for his own good. Getting whistled for bad penalties is a habit he’s had since high school, and fixing that should be a training objective when he plays for Boston University next season. When he keeps his emotions in check, however, he can be an unstoppable force.
I'd say outside of the offense, he's a real aggressive player. 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.
Hockey Prospect: 18th
NHL Central Scouting: 10th (North American skaters)
Future Considerations: 16th
Draft Analyst: 15th
Clayton Keller no doubt aided Bellows' goal totals. However, Bellows proved he could do it on his own--as a 16-year-old in the USHL. I think Keller is clearly the better prospect, thanks to his dynamism and all-around dominance.
When compared to Luke Kunin, who has already proven to be a big-time goalscorer in the NCAA, while also being a better skater and playmaker, Bellows falls short. That's not to say that Bellows won't be better in the long-run, but on draft day I think Kunin is a better prospect.
Bellows is headed to Boston University next season, where he will be joined by teammates Clayton Keller and Chad Krys, as well as fellow top 2016 draft prospect, Dante Fabbro.
There is no doubt that Bellows is a lethal goalscorer at the USHL level. The goalscoring and power elements of his game are top-10 worthy, and may allow him to sneak into the top-12. However, it's clear that elements other than his power shoot-first game do not come nearly as naturally.
Bellows probably isn't the best option at ninth overall, but there's a chance that he could be among the draft's 10 best players down the road. However, if the Canadiens are dead-set on Bellows, a trade down could maximize value.
Whatever the case, Bellows won't be available for long, if he makes it after pick 15.