Beyond Tomorrow: Stampede’s Bellows taking his own route to pro career

By David Hahn
Kieffer Bellows - Sioux Falls Stampede

Photo: Sioux Falls Stampede forward and 2016 prospect Kieffer Bellows is tied for fourth in goals in the USHL with 30 so far this season (courtesy of mJoy Photography)

 

While his surname might evoke memories of North Stars and vintage jerseys, Kieffer Bellows is more than just the son of Brian, a veteran of nearly 1,200 NHL games. Carving a name for himself with the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede, the younger Bellows has already impressed as one of the league’s leading goal scorers.

Looking back, Bellows and Stampede head coach Cary Eades have something in common, having both been a part of teams that have won a Minnesota state high school hockey championship. Eades accomplished the feat as a head coach at Warroad High School, while Bellows did so playing for Edina.

“I was a younger guy there, and I had to take a different role as a third-line center. My coach told me that we would make a difference, and our line got three goals in the championship game,” the budding power forward told Hockey’s Future.

The Stampede recognized that effort and made him the 13th overall selection in the 2014 USHL Futures Draft. Having graduated all but four players, Sioux Falls entered the season with a desire to inject offense back into their lineup.

“We saw a player with potential, a young man with a big body and a heavy shot. He is really starting to come into his own after receiving good coaching all the way up” Eades said of the decision to choose Bellows. “He came in unsure whether he was going to stay with us, but he has adjusted exceptionally well.”

Bellows has formed a formidable line with Cooper Marody (2015) and Logan O’Connor. While all of them bring their own traits that make the trio a success, Bellows suggested that O’Connor, his roommate this season, has been a positive influence.

“He took me under his wing, and we bonded like brothers on and off the ice,” acknowledged Bellows. “We would stay after practice and work on the little things. I’m fortunate to have him as a teammate.”

One quick look at the standings and statistics suggests that Sioux Falls is fortunate to have Bellows, too. Despite being younger than his peers at the top of the scoring race, he currently sits within the top five in USHL goal scoring.

“One of the things that sets him apart is that he is coachable. He soaks everything up and then applies that to his game,” Eades said of the Edina, MN native. “His skating has improved leaps and bounds, and there is a consistency to his game that is hard to find.”

That consistency was compared by Eades to two of his former players from his 15-year assistant coaching career with the University of North Dakota, Jonathan Toews and Drew Stafford. Make no mistake, however, that Bellows is creating his own identity.

“He is his own man, unique to himself. He has the heart, desire, and mental maturity of all the top players. He can score from anywhere, and we trust him in many different situations,” Eades said. “You’re not going to be on your game every night, but there are other things that you can do like being physical and consistent with the details.”

Sioux Falls recently clinched a playoff berth, and Bellows feels like he is starting to hit his stride, a dangerous statement to hear for any future opponent.

“Part of the process this season has been to set goals for myself. Some of them I achieved quickly, and I’m still working on others,” Bellows responded. “I’ve felt more comfortable, and I love to shoot the puck. I’m getting used to the league and my role on the team, and my main goal is to win the Clark Cup.”

While that goal is immediately in sight, another one is still one season away. Shortly before the U.S. NTDP tryout camp, Bellows received an invitation to visit Boston University as a guest of Terriers’ head coach, David Quinn.

“I’ve always dreamed of playing college hockey, and I grew up watching the Gophers,” Bellow admitted.

But the University of Minnesota didn’t make the cut. Neither did the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, who chose Bellow in the seventh round of the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. Instead, Bellows committed to Boston University for the 2016-17 season.

“I was lucky enough to make the team here, and it has been a privilege to play for Coach Eades,” said Bellows. “As soon as I stepped on Boston’s campus, I fell in love with it. I love the style of Coach Quinn, he’s one of those coaches who will sit down with you and focus on every single guy.”

Looking ahead to the 2016 NHL Draft, numerous scouting outlets have recognized Bellows as a potential first round selection and made comparisons to current players in the NHL. Not that Bellows has paid much attention.

“I try to stay away from social media,” stated Bellows. “I can tell when I’m playing well, and I’m happy as long as I’m working hard and focusing on my game.”

Coach Eades agreed with that assessment.

“Maybe 20 years from now we’ll look back and see young players being compared to Kieffer Bellows.”

Follow Dave Hahn on Twitter via @DHahnHockey