Report: Kieffer Bellows going to Portland

-Friday afternoon before Memorial Day weekend suddenly became one filled with excitement for Portland Winterhawks fans. The unexpected news of the 1998-born and first round pick of the New York Islanders Kieffer Bellows suddenly leaving Boston University sent shock waves through the WHL. Couple that with Portland letting it be known that they were going to have a press conference at the conclusion of the holiday weekend and the logical conclusion is that the left wing is leaving the NCAA for the WHL and the Portland Winterhawks.

Portland selected Bellows, who is the son of NHL great Brian Bellows in the seventh round (142nd overall) of the 2013 WHL Bantam draft. The Winterhawks had no picks in the first five rounds of that draft and took defenseman Carter Czaikowski ahead of him in the sixth round.

On June 19th of 2014, Bellows committed to play for Boston University and that seemed to be that. While it was Portland’s second pick, it did not seem like too much of a waste as it came in the seventh round. The assumption was made by most everyone in the WHL, that Bellows would not be going the major junior route. That did not change, even when the Islanders selected Bellows with the 19th overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft.

After a season in which he played limited minutes and struggled to a total of only 14 points though, it appears that he changed his mind. BU fell in the West Regional final to Minnesota-Duluth 3-2 in overtime. That team, which had Clayton Keller (Arizona), Charlie McAvoy (Boston) and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (Boston) leave this year in order to play professionally after signing NHL entry-level contracts now adds Bellows to that list of losses. Keller is a 1998-born player and would be eligible to play in the AHL next year if he doesn’t make the NHL as he was drafted off the USNTDP. Per the NHL Collective Bargaiuning Agreement (CBA), Bellows would not be eligible to play in the AHL under the hockey age of 20 if he were signed by Portland, before he is signed by New York.

Bellows won bronze with the United States’ U-18 team in Grand Forks, North Dakota in 2016 before capturing gold on the U-20 team at the World Junior Championships last January. He was also named the USHL’s rookie of the year for the Clark Cup champion Sioux Falls Stampede in 2016.

Portland looked to be in the running in the U.S. Division and Western Conference before this presumed addition, but now looks like they could be a favorite in what is expected to be a wide-open division and conference. If the announcement goes as expected on Tuesday, Bellows would be another recent, unexpected American-born addition for Portland. They signed 2001-born d-man Clay Hanus back on April fifth after listing him. Then they added 2000-born forward Mason Mannek in May. Hanus is from Minnetonka, Minnesota, while Mannek hails from Herriman, Utah.

With Bellows, presumably in the fold, they could try and add his BU teammate: goalie Jake Oettinger. The 1998-born netminder is expected to be drafted in the first few rounds of this June’s NHL draft. His WHL rights are owned by the Winterhawks.

Speculation and anticipation are now running rampant in Portland leading up the Tuesday press conference. We will have more when it is announced.

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Brandon Rivers

Longtime Portland Winterhawks' blogger on hodgesheroes.blogspot.com. I also write for SB Nation on the for the Seattle Sin Bin at http://www.sonicsrising.com/seattle-sin-bin. Further, I have a Seattle-sports podcast over at 206sportsjocks.com Originally from the Portland area, now living in Seattle. Proud husband and Father.