The Ontario Hockey League can be an unforgiving place for rookies. Luca Del Bel Belluz learned that the hard way, debuting with the Mississauga Steelheads in 2019-20 and managing just six points through 58 games. It was a far cry from his GTHL production in minor hockey, so a bit of a rude awakening for him at the Major Junior level.
Birthplace: Woodbridge, Ontario
Date of birth: November 10, 2003
Weight: 179 lbs.
Team: Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Like many other players in this draft, his chance to bounce back from that tough rookie year was taken away by the pandemic. He spent a year on the shelf, and had to come back looking to make an impression in 2021-22.
And make an impression he did, registering 76 points through 68 games, good for second on a surprisingly competitive Steelheads team. He was one of the most improved players in the OHL, and as a result has found his way onto plenty of draft lists ahead of the annual selection in July.
His puck skills are off the charts. He’s an excellent stickhandler, and can flat-out embarrass defenders with his moves. There are some elements of Nick Suzuki to his game in how he can slow things down and buy time with his creativity, as well as manipulate defenders to open up and exploit passing lanes.
He doesn’t need much of a lane to exploit, either. He can thread passes through tight spaces, and has excellent touch, very rarely missing open teammates. Again, you see a little Suzuki in how he can dish the puck very creatively.
His shot is also a big strength, as he possesses a lethal wrister he can score with from all over, and a very accurate one-timer as well. He is at his best near the hashmarks, but also can occupy that top-of-the-circle area on the power play with great success.
On the skating front, his edge-work and agility are impressive. He can make quick cuts, which combined with his puck skills make him a problem for defenders to deal with. At the CHL Top Prospects Game, he came third in the weave agility (with puck) drill, showing off how he can cut very quickly while also handling the puck.
There are some issues with his skating, but the abilities he has now combined with his puck-handling make him very dangerous in the offensive zone.
While edge-work, agility, and lateral movement are definitive strengths in his skating, he needs improvement in his explosiveness and straight-line speed. He is by no means a slow player, but he has a bit of an awkward stride that seems to hold him back from reaching his top gear. It will be one of the biggest things for him to work on before turning pro.
He also has some defensive issues, particularly as it pertains to zone exits. As you can see in Mitch Brown’s tracking, his exit numbers leave a lot to be desired. A big part of that is due to lacking in physicality, and relying more on stick skills to try and get the puck past opposing forwards.
Finally, while his shot is a strength, his volume is very low. Simply put, he needs to be a little more confident — maybe even more selfish — and let the puck fly more often. If he can do that, he should see another bump in his OHL numbers next season.
Dobber Prospects: #33
Elite Prospects: #75
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #37
NHL Central Scouting: #8 (North American skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): #25
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #45
The rankings are a little spread out, with some having him all the way into the third round, some in the late first. It is likely best to split the difference, and say he’ll be gone somewhere in the second round.
With the improvement he showed after a tough rookie season and a full year out of the game, I think there is yet another level that has yet to be unlocked. If he didn’t spend that year on the shelf, I honestly wonder if we’d be talking about a mid-first-round pick instead of a potential second-rounder.
I would take him ahead of some players that will be ranked ahead of him, so I wouldn’t blink at the Montreal Canadiens using the first pick of the second-round to do it. I have some other targets I like a little better at 26th overall, but if those players don’t make it, I wouldn’t have an issue with them reaching a little to get him there.
Improvement like his suggests a willingness to put in the work, and with the newfound focus on development that the Canadiens have stressed, this is the type of prospect you want in the system.