Kieffer Bellows would have liked to have come out of camp with the New York Islanders with an NHL job, but as he heads to his junior team he’ll take the next best thing: his first NHL contract. The Islanders cut Bellows from camp earlier today, but have announced a few hours later that he signed his entry-level deal before leaving. The contract is the entry level maximum: three years, $925K per year.
The Islanders’ 2016 first-round pick, Bellows has already been an intriguing character for fans to follow. The son of former NHLer Brian Bellows, Kieffer was a standout on the 2015-16 U.S. National Development Team, registering 81 points in 62 games. After being drafted by the Isles, Bellows moved on to Boston University last fall, where he had long since been committed to play college hockey. Yet, in May it was revealed that Bellows would not return to the Terriers this season, instead changing development tracks and moving to Canadian juniors, where the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks held his rights. While many speculated that Bellows move may have to do with the loss of talent at BU – the powerhouse program watched Charlie McAvoy, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Clayton Keller leave early – but the counter is that more talented NHL prospects remained than left and the team had reinforcements of several 2017 draft picks and 2018 hopefuls coming in. In the end, it seems that college hockey might have just been a poor fit for Bellows and he felt that he could develop better in the WHL.
All eyes will be on the 19-year-old power forward this season as he adjusts to the major junior game. With his contract signed, it is possible he could see some time with the Islanders in 2017-18, but seeing as they already have several young forwards still being worked into the lineup, it seems more likely that Bellows will use this WHL season as a tryout for next year’s squad.