On his draft night, Kieffer Bellows said he hoped to be in the NHL in two years.
That plan is still in his head, but the journey is taking a slight detour, as the New York Islanders 2016 first-round pick is leaving Boston University after one year to play for the WHL's Portland Winterhawks next season.
What's making him pack up a life at the No. 6 ranked hockey school and move across the country? It's the opportunity to play twice as much hockey next season - and Portland drafted Bellows back in the 2013 Bantam Draft, so they held his junior rights.
"Just more games, playing the 72 instead of the 40 was the biggest thing for me," Bellows said on Tuesday at Islanders Mini Camp.
The Canadian junior teams play an NHL-style schedule with weekday games and fewer breaks, while the NCAA plays nearly exclusively on weekends and are subject to the overall school schedule. Last season, the Winterhawks played 83 games (72 regular season, 11 playoff) compared to BU's 39, so he could see double the action.
Bellows played in 34 of BU's games in 2016-17 - scoring 14 points (7G, 7A) - but played an additional seven with Team USA at the World Junior Hockey Championship. Bellows scored a pair of goals in Team USA's gold medal shootout win over Canada and the Islanders prospect said winning gold was the obvious highlight of his year.
"Playing in that was really special," Bellows said. "It was even more special winning in Montreal, a place where my dad [Brian Bellows] won a [Stanley] Cup in 1993 was pretty outstanding and a pretty emotional time. Winning that, it's something you work for your whole life."
The Terriers didn't have the same championship ending as Team USA, but BU advanced to the semifinals of the Hockey East Tournament and the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament, which is still a reasonably successful season.
Bellows said he made a lot of close friendships and thanked the coaches for making him a stronger, faster and better overall player.
"I can't thank the coaching staff at BU and the players enough," Bellows said. "The strength coaches… I knew I wouldn't be performing as well as I am right now and being in as great of shape as I am, but I just felt more games was the biggest thing for me."
He's excited for the challenges that await in Portland and has already been in contact with a few Winterhawks, including 2017 6th-overall pick Cody Glass. It'll be an adjustment, with the long bus rides and relentless physicality of the WHL, but at 19, he'll be one of the older players. He'll also get to attend Islanders training camp, which he missed last year because of the college schedule/regulations.
"I think it's going to be awesome," Bellows said. "I can't wait for it.