When Myles Bell
was just entering grade school, he peered out the window of his home one day and saw his neighbors playing street hockey in the driveway. Curious about the game, Bell did what any young kid would do.
"I joined them," he said, "and never looked back."
Bell began playing organized hockey in his hometown of Calgary around age 6 and over a decade later, he is poised to be a first-round pick in the 2011 Entry Draft. Ranked No. 37 among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's mid-term rankings, the 17-year-old defenseman from the Western Hockey League's Regina Pats has 11 goals and 26 points in 41 games.
"He's got tremendous offensive instincts," said Regina coach Curtis Hunt
. "That's probably one of his greatest attributes. He's got real good poise with the puck, a tremendous shot from the blue line and good vision across the top and in special-teams situations -- and from behind the goal line. He has a good first pass, as well. He's probably as tough as they come, and at 17 he can probably take on anyone (physically)."
"He's got very good hockey sense and sees the ice well," said NHL Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan
. "He can either slow down the style of the game or speed it up when he wants to. He's definitely got all the tools. He has a good shot. He's used in all situations, both on the power play and penalty kill. He can lay out the big hits. He's got all the aspects that you want in a defenseman."
"He can either slow down the style of the game or speed it up when he wants to. He's definitely got all the tools. He has a good shot. He's used in all situations, both on the power play and penalty kill. He can lay out the big hits. He's got all the aspects that you want in a defenseman." -- NHL Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan
Bell's offensive instincts were best displayed during an Oct. 2 game against the Edmonton Oil Kings, when he went end-to-end to score a goal. It might not happen often, but Bell feels that was nothing out of the ordinary for him.
"I try to do this as much as I can," he said. "But I just got a lucky break on that one."
It didn't take Bell long to impress Hunt.
"There was a ton of raw talent," the coach said. "I remember thinking how strong he was for a young player, but just that raw ability. We used him -- as a 16-year-old -- on the wing at times, just because he had good offensive instincts. That allowed us to keep him in the lineup and he could still contribute on the power play as a defenseman."
Bell's talents were furthered when he was selected to play for Team Canada at the 2010 Ivan Hlinka
Memorial Tournament. He had a goal and an assist to help Canada win a gold medal.
The opportunity "allowed him to understand the importance of the team game," Hunt said. "Hockey Canada does a great job of bringing in talented individuals and turning them into a team. And that's an important part of these players' growth and development. Going through that process is a great opportunity, not only for Myles but every player. His first year, we didn't get into the postseason. So this chance to play for a championship -- that's just terrific experience that you can bring back to your club team."
Although Bell has incredible talent, he still needs work on various parts of his game. Hunt said he believes Bell needs to improve his play without the puck and in the defensive zone, while Sullivan believes Bell must concentrate on his consistency, among other aspects.
"He can be so effective at times, but sometimes he seems to not be as consistent as he should be," Sullivan said. "With the way the game has changed, defensemen cannot be as aggressive because you're afraid to tap the guy or hold him. That forces them to be better in 1-on-1 situations. I can find a fault there, but I can also find that fault in 95 percent of defensemen."
Nonetheless, Sullivan said he believes Bell compares to one of the best in the NHL right now.
"This might be a little stretch, but he shows signs of being like Drew Doughty
," Sullivan said. "Doughty carries the puck and is excellent at both ends of the rink. He can throw the big hit, too. When (Bell) is on his game, that's who Bell reminds me of a bit."
The start of Bell's NHL journey will begin this summer when he is drafted into the League -- and many believe his name will be called early.
"I definitely see him as a top-four defenseman because he's excellent on the power play," said Sullivan. "With the way he sees the ice, if he's consistent, he can be a top-two, top-three defenseman."
But simply being a high draft pick will not guarantee Bell a prosperous NHL career.
"The better he gets at understanding the concepts of his defensive play and puck recovery, the better player he'll become," Hunt said. "I believe he'll play (in the NHL). For how long and how high up in the lineup, though, is entirely up to him."