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Bellows With a Big Opportunity Thursday Night

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Kieffer Bellows

There are 10 games left to be played in the New York Islanders regular season, and Kieffer Bellows is heading back into the lineup for the first time since Mar. 31.

The 23-year-old Kieffer Bellows has played 35 games this season, a career-high, with four goals and nine assists. Two of his four goals have been game-winners.

Like another youngster, Oliver Wahlstrom, New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz has been rather quick to pull on the leash if he’s not seeing what he wants. There have been games where Bellows has been benched, his minutes cut, and more often than not, where Bellows had to watch the game from above.

The 19th overall pick back in 2016 has not done much in the NHL over his first three seasons with the New York Islanders. There have been games where Bellows has showcased his offensive skill set, but too many games where he has been invisible on the ice.

His physicality is something that has been more noticeable this season, and that may be a reason he had been alternating games with Ross Johnston on the New York Islanders fourth line in the absence of Cal Clutterbuck.

Trotz has said that his offensive touch helps that fourth line, alongside Casey Cizikas, making them more of a scoring threat.

But Bellows was not drafted to be a fourth-liner.

Unfortunately, the New York Islanders have seen what they thought would be an offensive weapon turn into a bottom-six grinder at the NHL level in Michael Dal Colle, who was drafted fifth overall in 2014.

Bellows has only played 57 games at the NHL over his first three NHL seasons, and his playing time has been sporadic. He’s been described as a bust, but it’s challenging for a young player to get acclimated at the NHL level with inconsistent playing time. But at the same time, that’s professional sports.

When an opportunity presents itself, you either run with it or get left in the dust.

With the emergence of Oliver Wahlstrom last season and this season, despite the struggles as of late, Kieffer Bellows was left in the dust.

Although the offensive output for Bellows has not been there often enough, it hasn’t been from a lack of trying.

In 57 career games, Bellows has recorded 89 shots, which averaged out to 1.56 shots per game. This season, Bellows has 59 shots in 35 games, 1.69 shots per game.

What’s failed Bellows has been the speed of the NHL game in all three zones. He is not a particularly fast skater which has limited his ability to be in the right place at the right time. He has not read plays at a strong enough rate which is why he has not played.

Kieffer Bellows actually got a chance to play alongside Mathew Barzal before Oliver Wahlstrom, but clearly was not ready to play with a player of that caliber. Bellows’ reaction time was a little too slow, which led to scoring chances to go by the wayside in a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers back on Jan. 17.

In a game back on Feb. 17, a 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins, Bellows skated alongside Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier and put forth a much better effort with an assist, five shots, a block, and zero turnovers in 14:53 TOI. That game came after Bellows was a healthy scratch for five straight games, 23 days between games because of COVID-19 postponements.

Prior to that game, Trotz said, “He’s probably ready to transition over to a little more full-time basis as much as possible. I think he’s capable of it. And in my mind, just as like everybody, it’s just a little bit of consistency.”

Since that game, Bellows has played in 14 contests with one goal and two assists in an average of 11.24 minutes per game.

There are not many more chances for Kieffer Bellows, a pending restricted free agent, to showcase what he can bring to the table so he will need to be ready to go when the puck drops Thursday night in Pittsburgh.

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