Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2016 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
BUFFALO -- Growing up with a famous name in a hockey family isn't totally uncommon for prospects in the 2016 NHL Draft, but for Kieffer Bellows, it means having to make your own way to the NHL.
Bellows is the son of former longtime NHL forward Brian Bellows, who played 1,188 games with 485 goals and 1,022 points in 17 seasons with five teams. Having a father that played in the NHL helped Kieffer get a close-up look of what it takes to excel on the ice.
"Watching his games now are different; they were black and white back then," Bellows said with a laugh during the 2015 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in September. "Watching his games I see what he did and … kind of like when I watch my games, I kind of see the similarities in there, but he's taught me a lot."
Having the attention of being the son of an NHL star raised expectations for what the younger Bellows can bring to the ice. So far, he has proven to be a goal scorer, just like his father.
Kieffer Bellows has scored 24 goals with 40 points in 27 games this season. (Photo: Rena Laverty)
"For me, the only way you pass on him [in the draft] is if someone that you like better happens to be there and that can happen, certainly," said David Gregory of NHL Central Scouting. "With any player, when you're at the top end of the draft, they're just going to be someone that may need a defenseman ahead of a forward, and it comes down to that. I don't see a lot of deficiencies in his game. Having seen him play for the past three years, I've seen him just get better and better.
"As a younger player in high school, he's playing with older guys, and where's his skating compared to that? But he's so young, you've got to give him time to develop and now that he has, that's become a non-issue. He got bigger and he's not afraid of the gritty stuff, so it's hard to find a deficiency in his game. There are other prospects that got better at certain things than him, but he's a pretty complete package, in my opinion."
Bellows joined the United States National Team Development Program in the United States Hockey League this season, and also plays for the U.S. National Under-18 Team, with whom he has scored 24 goals with 40 points in 27 games.
"I'd say outside of the offense, he's a real aggressive player," U.S. National U-18 coach Danton Cole said. "He's physical on the forecheck and back pressure. He's definitely a shooter, I mean, he looks to shoot the puck and he has that ability, I think, in today's game, which is hard to do, is to get the pucks on the net from all kinds of odd angles and not just a soft shot; I mean he gets it on hard, it's a goal-scorer shot. The biggest thing everyone notices is the result of that, and the goal scoring. He scores goals."
In his first season in the USHL with the Sioux Falls Stampede, Bellows helped them win the Clark Cup, and also won the Rookie of the Year award. He had 52 points and scored 33 goals, the most for a 16-year-old in the USHL Tier I era (2002-present). He also had nine goals and 11 points in 12 playoff games.
"He's handled the scrutiny since he's been in high school and played where scouts were at games, and he started to score when he was a ninth-grader," Gregory said. "You know that he's going to have a lot of people watching him and his dad's high profile that he played his whole career with; I think it's a good experience for him. He probably had expectations that others don't sometimes, but to learn that at a young age I think will help him as he gets older and becomes a pro."
Scoring that many goals has gotten Bellows noticed by NHL Central Scouting. He was given an "A" rating, meaning he's projected to be a first-round pick. At six feet, 196 pounds, he's a left wing who could wind up playing a couple of roles as a professional, but his biggest asset will be his ability to fill the net.
"I think he's going to be the finisher and the sniper," Gregory said. "He can play on the wing and if you have someone that can get him the puck, he's very adept at getting open for shooting lanes. He can distribute, but there are not many people that can shoot it like him and finish like him. I think if a team gets him, they're going to try to get him in a role where he gets opportunities to finish."
Being a part of the NTDP and having a strong offensive prowess earned Bellows an invitation to the USA Hockey selection camp for the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championships. Even though he has gotten noticed for scoring goals, he also has improved his ability to set up teammates this season.
"I think you make a mistake if you assume he's not a good passer," Cole said. "It's nice seeing him every day in practice, and in different situations and he can move a puck very well; he sees the openings. He understands some of the theory of offense and understands setting up triangles and where the open guy is. Now that doesn't mean he's not going to take his shots because he will, but I think also, like his defense, I think it's an underrated part of his game … We like our guys to be a little more complete than that, and he certainly is."
Bellows is committed to Boston University for 2016-17.
"There's a lot [about Boston University] that really enticed me," Bellows said. "The coaches did a fantastic job. Coach [David] Quinn, [Albie] O'Connell; they did a fantastic job. They made me really feel like I was a part of the family as if I was a Terrier already when I got there for my visit. As soon as I stepped on campus, it really felt like home for me."