BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Growing up in Edina, Minnesota, Kieffer Bellows knew early on the path he’d take in following his father’s footsteps to the National Hockey League.
The son of former NHLer Brian Bellows, Kieffer paid close attention to the college ranks, and in particular, University of Minnesota Golden Gophers forward and current Florida Panthers star Nick Bjugstad.
The Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks own Bellows' Canadian Hockey League rights, but he had a one-track mind when it came to deciding his hockey future.
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“I've always wanted to play college hockey,” the Boston University commit said last weekend at the NHL combine. “I grew up watching the University of Minnesota, Wisconsin and all those top schools and they win national championships. You see that a lot of players, 31 percent or more, that play college hockey now are in the NHL. You see the development factor of that and it really just helps a lot.”
Bellows plans on spending part of his summer in Boston getting a head start on his education.
“I've been taking business classes through high school and that's what I want to transfer over to,” Bellows said. “I'll go in there July 3 through Aug. 12, around that time, and I'll just take two or three classes.”
The old "apple didn’t fall far from the tree" saying is true for Bellows when it comes to his game on the ice. The 17-year-old spent the 2015-16 season with the U.S. National Development Program’s U-18 team, a squad on which he scored 16 goals and 16 assists in 23 games.
The 6-foot, 196-pound forward added five goals and three assists in seven games, helping the Americans win bronze at the 2016 IIHF Under-18 tournament.
“You can see when he’s shooting the puck and the way he moves when he finds open space in the offensive zone, that’s a special gift — he looks a lot like his dad when he’s out there doing that,” said Bellows’ coach Danton Cole, a veteran of 318 NHL games. “His dad had a good mean streak to him and I think Kieffer has that too. He really battles for every foot out on the ice, works hard in the corners and just has that ability around the net to get the puck and get it off.”
With the Flyers picking at No. 18 in the first round later this month, Bellows could be available when the team's brass takes to the stage to make the selection. The Hockey News had Bellows ranked 20th overall in its Top 100 prospect rankings, NHL Central Scouting had him at No. 10 among North American skaters in its final rankings and ISS Hockey pegged Bellows at 17th overall.
“He's a tremendous goal scorer,” Dennis MacInnis, ISS Hockey scouting director, said. “He's one of the best in this draft class. He's got a tremendous shot - that's his bread and butter. He's got great anticipation and hockey sense.
“He was very good at the U-18 tournament in Grand Forks. Definitely his forte is goal scoring. He's one of the top goal scorers in this draft. Pure sniper.”
Scouts compare Bellows to Ottawa Senators forward Bobby Ryan while Bellows says he tries to model his game after Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn.
“I really like the way [Benn] shoots the puck, uses his body. He's physical and he's not afraid to get to the dirty areas. I really like that about him,” Bellows said. “I'm a power forward who loves to shoot the puck, is capable of playing a 200-foot game, likes to throw the body around a little bit.”
Whichever team selects Bellows at the NHL draft in Buffalo will add a future first line goal-scoring winger to their organization.