As the WHL preseason is upon us, the excitement around the Portland Winterhawks’ season is growing. That excitement was given a huge boost on May 30th, when Bellows announced that he was leaving Boston University to play in the WHL with Portland. The 1998-born left wing departed the Terriers after potting seven goals and seven assists for 14 points over 34 games.
Instead of looking back on what was statistically disappointing campaign for him, he is looking forward to the 2017-18 WHL season. Ultimately the decision came down for what would best prepare him for the NHL.
“I think i just wanted to play more games. I wanted to play 72 games and get used to the seven-game playoff series. Coach (David) Quinn, Albie O’Connell and Scott Young really helped my game so much over the last year and I can’t thank them enough.”
It is unknown how much of a role the New York Islanders organization played in this decision, but he is currently unsigned by the NHL team, despite being taken 19th overall in the 2016 draft. Bellows knows that if he does all the little things, he will get signed and so he cannot worry about it too much.
“My main goal this year is to develop my game. Just be the best player I can be on the ice and help the team out as much as possible. If I do that than everything will fall right into place.”
Helping influence the decision to come to Portland for him was the pipeline of talent they have put into the NHL under head coach and general manager Mike Johnston. Bellows was always keeping one eye on the team that held his WHL rights after taking him in the seventh round of the 2013 WHL bantam draft.
“I tried to keep up with the team and tried to look at how they were doing in the standings and stuff. Other than that, I’ve just seen all the players that have come out of Portland like Ryan Johansen, Seth Jones and a guy I played at World Juniors last year with: Caleb Jones. I just saw how they did and talked with them a little bit just to see how it was and that really helped my decision to come here. ”
The younger Jones, in particular played a very active role in his recruitment to the Rose City.
“Jones was on me a lot about coming here and when I really started thinking about coming to Portland, I gave him a call. I asked him what the team and city was like; just everything I could. I asked him about travel and all the living situation stuff. He couldn’t say one bad thing about Portland or anybody. That was just fantastic and I loved to hear it.”
Bellows now comes to a Portland team that appears loaded for a run this season. He has placed himself in the somewhat strange situation of being a 19-year-old rookie.
“Just being a new but older guy, I feel like I need to bring a leadership aspect to the team. Hopefully I can do that. I really got in touch with Keoni Texeira about everything in Portland and I talked to him a lot as he is on my team in camp. I feel like him and I have really created a bond.”
Texeira was not the only Winterhawk in camp that Bellows has made a connection with.
“Yeah especially a guy like Clay Hanus, who just signed here this summer. He’s a young guy but I worked out with him this summer. I got to know him pretty well and he’s a really good kid. I’m super excited to see what he will do this year.”
Bellows was conditioned a bit into being a leader over the summer when he took part in the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan. He was one of the few returning guys from the squad that won a gold medal in the 2017 rendition of the tournament.
“Being a returning guy at camp this summer, I tried to take on a leadership role and help out some of the younger and newer guys. I tried to help them get comfortable and help them get to know what the World Juniors is really like. It’s such a unique tournament with it being so short, but having such high-end hockey. A lot of the guys have watched it on T.V., but you really need to get the inside into how it really is. ”
Being so locked into leading his team, Bellows had to do a bit of a double-take when he looked over to the Canadian side during a game at the Showcase and saw his new teammate Cody Glass sporting the maple leaf.
“It was pretty funny seeing Cody across on the other side. I thought that the first time I was going to see him, was going to be in a Portland jersey. I really forgot that him being a Canadian guy he’d be there. We kind of looked across at each other jokingly threw some funny chirps at each other about hockey and stuff. I can’t wait to possibly play with Cody because he’s a great player and he showcased that at the World Junior camp.”
The possible connection between Glass and Bellows has certainly been the talk of many conversations centered around the WHL team since May and it seems clear that those two are just as excited about its possibility as Portland’s fans are.
(featured photo is from the USNTDP)