VOORHEES, N.J. – When you have a father who registered 485 goals and more than a thousand NHL points, plus you’re the 19th overall pick in the first round of the draft, expectations are bound to be high.
For Kieffer Bellows, maybe too high.
The big left wing was selected way up on the 2016 draft list perhaps because his dad, Brian, was a borderline Hall of Fame player and partly because he showed so much potential in junior hockey.
Kieffer was claimed by the Flyers off waivers from the team that drafted him, the New York Islanders, and they aren’t going to wait around to find out what they have. He’s expected to be in the lineup when the Flyers play host to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
After playing one year for Boston University and two seasons for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the AHL, Bellows finally made it to the NHL.
But over the last four seasons, the reviews have been mixed. He has played a total of 68 games, most of them under former coach Barry Trotz, and did manage 11 goals/25 points with a plus-1.
Now he gets a second chance with the Flyers where the expectations might not be so unrealistic.
At 24, the Minnesota native is still viewed as a potential sniper and coach John Tortorella, never known to be a patient sort, wants to see what he has.
Tortorella said “a change of scenery’’ might be just what Bellows needs.
After Friday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center, Bellows downplayed the idea that there might have been a little bit too much pressure placed upon him at the outset on Long Island.
“There’s been a lot of pressure just growing up,’’ said Bellows, who will wear uniform No. 20 for the Flyers. “My dad’s been a great influence on me. He has taken away that pressure – just ‘go out there and have fun.’ Same with my mom. They’ve done a good job of helping me stay way from the pressure.’’
A new start might be just what he needs.
“I’m excited,’’ he said. “The Flyers are an historic organization and I’m very thankful for the opportunity that (general manager) Chuck (Fletcher) and coach Tortorella are going to give me.’’
Bellows has a salary cap hit of $1,200,000, so it’s easy to see why Islander GM Lou Lamoriello reasoned it was best to move Bellows. He has played only one game this season.
“It was sad to leave the guys,’’ Bellows said. “It’s such a nice team over there. But I’m excited for this opportunity.
“In the games I played last year (45), I thought I played well (six goals/19 points, minus-1). I was scoring goals, making plays. But not just that, I was good defensively. I was reliable for my team and that’s what I want to bring here.’’
With Sean Couturier, Cam Atkinson and Patrick Brown out indefinitely, the Flyers could use some help with scoring from their power forward-type players. So far, players such as Owen Tippett and Wade Allison have produced sporadically.
“I think the big thing is I just want to be a power forward,’’ said the 6-1, 195-pound Bellows. “A power forward who scores goals, has offensive flair but can be trusted defensively as well.’’
And it’s a clean slate. Whatever impressions Bellows makes will be without too much emphasis on what’s happened in the past.
“A fresh start is the best way to go about it,’’ he said. “Go out there with an open mind. Play the right way for coach.’’
As of Friday morning, the Flyers stood in first place in the Metropolitan Division, so Tortorella might be able to experiment with some new players.
“I don’t know much about him (Bellows) at all,’’ Tortorella said. “I haven’t seen him play. I talked to him last night. I know he was a high pick, which doesn’t mean much to me at all.
“But from what our people who have seen play say, they speak very highly of him. That’s what I’m going on. I want to see him play and we’ll go from there.’’