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Bellerive confident he'll be ready for Penguins training camp

Forward 'feeling pretty good physically,' adjusting on ice since burn injury in June

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

KAMLOOPS, British Columbia -- Jordan Bellerive was told it could take up to a year for him to be healthy enough to play hockey again after he sustained severe burns to his upper body June 15.

Instead, the Pittsburgh Penguins forward prospect was in the gym 13 days after he was hospitalized, and on the ice less than a month later.

"At this point I'm feeling pretty good physically," Bellerive, 19, said. "It's a little different on the ice. In the gym I feel really good. I've made massive progress since I've been back at it. The ice is coming but that's a bit of a process as well with my hands, getting everything back without damaging any of the new skin. I've got a long way to go but I've made a lot of progress."

 

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Part of that progress has been attending the World Junior Summer Showcase at Sandman Centre. Bellerive isn't able to skate during the camp, which started Saturday and runs through Aug. 4, but will spend a few days getting to know potential teammates and coaches for the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.

"Besides the NHL, it (World Junior Championship) is something everyone has dreamed of as a kid," Bellerive said. "That's something I hope to do. I've worked for everything I've gotten and I'm going to continue to do that and hopefully earn myself a spot on [Canada]."

One of three people sitting on a bench near a fire pit at the family home of former teammate Tyler Wong in Cochrane, Alberta, Bellerive was injured when a substance was placed into the fire that caused an explosion.

He said he remembers everything that happened but isn't ready to share the details, except to say there was damage to his face, hands and upper body.

"I was fully conscious for all of it," Bellerive said. "Some pretty vivid images."

Bellerive spent 12 days in the hospital, but his recovery process has him confident he will be a full participant at Penguins training camp in September.

"As far as I've come, as quick as I have, I don't think it's too far-fetched to think I'll definitely be ready to go by training camp and be full flight by then," he said.

Bellerive didn't need skin grafts, and a change to his diet has helped speed up his recovery.

"The recommendation for when you're in a burn incident is to eat 2 1/2 times more calories than you normally would," he said. "It's a struggle to eat a lot. I was on a very high-protein diet and every three hours they had me eating a certain amount of protein, two shakes a day with every kind of supplement you can think of, all these different vitamins. I think I was taking 20 different vitamins every morning."

The only adjustment Bellerive has had to make on the ice is to wear a glove under his hockey glove to prevent chaffing where new skin is growing.

"Whatever pain I struggle with, I have the green light to try to battle through it," he said. "It's not going to harm my recovery anymore. Just trying to get back to where I was before the incident."

Before the incident, Bellerive was becoming a surprise prospect for the Penguins.

Undrafted after two seasons with Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League, he signed a three-year, entry-level contract Sept. 16, 2017. Last season, Bellerive was named Lethbridge's captain and led the team with 92 points (46 goals, 46 assists) in 71 games, and had 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 16 playoff games.

"He's really been a good story for us," Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said. "He was an undrafted player, came to our rookie camp and did extremely well and we signed him. We liked what he saw, then he took that after he signed and had a terrific year in the Western Hockey League. We were very pleased at that point as to how he was developing."

Another step in that development has been attending the WJSS. Despite his limitations, Canada coach Tim Hunter said it was important to have him around the players and staff.

"He was one of the first guys we talked about trying to make sure we got him here so it could help his psyche being around the players," Hunter said.

The players certainly were happy to see him.

"He's my best buddy from back home growing up," said Michael Rasmussen (Detroit Red Wings), who is Bellerive's former teammate with Okanagan Hockey Academy. "Good to see him out here. He's a pretty strong guy with how he's dealt with things. Even just being here shows a lot about his character. It's great to see and we're all happy he's here."

For Bellerive, having the WJSS and Penguins training camp on his calendar have played an important role during his recovery.

"To think about the World Juniors, to think about the upcoming Penguins camp … those are the kind of things I'm reaching for," he said. "To have those in front of me as a goal, it's pretty motivating and something that definitely helps me get up the morning and go to the gym, and do that one more rep or take a couple more shots every day. Little things like that keep you motivated for sure."

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