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Kieffer Bellows: Latest Forward Prospect to Come Up Short for Islanders

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Michael Dal Colle, New York Islanders

Every year, over 200 players are selected by NHL franchises during the NHL Draft with the same goal–to make it to the NHL. The majority never get the opportunity, and for some that do make it, they fail to live up to expectations. The New York Islanders have dealt with a handful of those situations, as the latest is 23-year-old forward, Kieffer Bellows.

On Wednesday, the former 19th overall pick back in 2016 was placed on waivers, and on Thursday, the Philadelphia Flyers put in their waiver claim. Now Kieffer Bellows joins their organization, a team with a handful of injuries, as he should get an opportunity to prove that he does belong at the NHL level.

Over four years at the NHL level with New York, Kieffer Bellows, the son of former NHLer Brian Bellows, only played in 68 games. He totaled 11 goals over that span, with 14 assists, 23 blocks, 154 hits, 10 takeaways, and 34 giveaways.

Bellows spent the better parts of two seasons with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (now Bridgeport Islanders) following a dominant season for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL.

With the Winterhawks (2017-18), the Edina, Minnesota native notched 41 goals with 33 assists (74 points).

From 2018-2020, Bellows recorded 44 goals with 16 assists in 125 AHL contests.

Back in 2020, Kieffer Bellows was caught using PEDs, but according to the AHL at the time, they shared that “All applicable discipline has been issued and satisfied.”

Bellows has always shown an NHL shot, but his lack of speed and hockey IQ limited his minutes. He failed to develop into the player that the organization was expecting. Bellows came into training camp flying, especially after receiving a pay raise ($1.1 M to $1.2 M) this summer.

Despite deserving a raise after finishing his 2021-22 season on the right foot, he got just one shot this season, and the Islanders dropped him on the depth chart.

Kieffer Bellows Claimed Off Waivers by Flyers, How Did We Get Here?

A top forward prospect not panning out is nothing new for the New York Islanders.

This past offseason, the New York Islanders officially moved on from former fifth overall pick Michael Dal Colle. The 26-year-old forward was the only restricted free agent that wasn’t brought back by the organization.

Dal Colle dressed for one game with the New York Islanders during the 2021-22 season, where he recorded two shots and a giveaway in 14:34 minutes of ice time. In 26 games with the New York Islanders during that shortened 56-game campaign of 2021-22,  Dal Colle had one goal and three assists.

Dal Colle had the opportunity to be tendered following the 2020-21 season, but the New York Islanders elected not to go that route, as Dal Colle became an unrestricted free agent.

In 26 games with the New York Islanders during that shortened 56-game campaign, Dal Colle had one goal and three assists.

The Islanders then signed him to a one-year deal with an annual average value of $750,000.

The fifth overall pick was drafted to be a goal scorer, but when the chances presented themselves at the NHL, Dal Colle never showed enough.

This summer, Dal Colle was given a PTO by a young Ottawa Senators team but did not make the NHL roster as he remains a free agent.

Three seasons ago was the beginning of the end of the New York Islanders and their relationship with another first-round forward in Josh Ho-Sang.

Josh Ho-Sang was originally drafted by the Islanders 28th overall in the 2014 NHL Draft. Then general manager Garth Snow moved back into the first round to select Ho-Sang after taking Michael Dal Colle with the fifth overall pick earlier that evening.

Ho-Sang’s time with the Islanders has been a whirlwind for both sides. He appeared in 53 NHL games with the Islanders, scoring seven goals and 24 points. There was plenty of promise for the talented forward following a 21-game stint at the end of the 2016-17 season, where he scored four goals and recorded 10 points during his first crack at the NHL.

The Toronto native had trouble cracking the Islanders lineup and requested a trade out of Long Island in 2019. The Islanders could not find a new home for the forward, and he was loaned to the St. Louis Blues’ AHL team. After coming to terms last season with Ho-Sang on a two-way deal, the Islanders again loaned him away, this time to the SHL’ Orebro.

In 178 games at the AHL level, Josh Ho-Sang scored 30 goals and 123 points.

He is currently hurt but is playing for Ufa Salavat Yulayev of the KHL after splitting time with two SHL teams in 2020-21, along with a 47-game stint with the Toronto Marlies.

Now, one current New York Islanders prospect is coming close to having the same fate as the three players above, and that’s Simon Holmstrom. Despite being only 21, Holmstrom is playing in his fourth season for the Bridgeport Islanders and seems to be behind in his development.

Like many of the players discussed, Holmstrom has that “NHL shots,” but a lack of speed and finishing has limited his opportunities at the NHL level to just preseason games.

There was some thought that Holmstrom could fight for a roster spot come opening night, but he did not show the coaching staff enough and found himself back in Bridgeport.

Holstrom currently has two goals and an assist in five games for Bridgeport this season.

Now, whose fault is it for the lack of prospects living up to their potential?

Some of the onus needs to be on the organization, as given the lack of developed prospects, and prospects in general. But more of the onus is on the players.

For Michael Dal Colle, he did not seem to have the strong enough skills to be the offensive player he was projected to be. Josh Ho-Sang, from the start, did not seem to be a responsible player and never was able to play the team game needed to have success at the NHL level. And Kieffer Bellows, despite having the strongest shot of the three, lacked speed which limited his ability in transition.

For Simon Holmstrom, he is similar to Kieffer Bellows, with speed being a glaring issue that has held him back.

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