Eric Belanger- 2 Way to the NHL
For many Kings fans in Southern California, Eric Belanger was just a prospect that people heard about from the local drivetime radio guy. Belanger was the answer to any question about the Kings farm system, even after injuries put his future as a King in doubt. Now, as the Kings have shown some life in the playoffs, Belanger is listed among the reasons for the Kings resurgence.Eric Belanger was thought to be the playmaking center that the Kings wished for. He was a point-a-game plus as a junior and his skill was talked as he rose through the Kings farm system. Then a series of bizarre injuries and illnesses caused many to consider his slight build (6’0, 177) and his bad luck a precursor to a lack of durability. When Belanger finally resurfaced in Lowell last season his start was unspectacular at best. As Belanger got back into playing shape and his injuries were healed, he showed a new side of his game- a side that would take him to the NHL.In camp last fall, the Kings saw the new Eric Belanger. Not the playmaking center but rather a hard-nosed, two-way center who could handle the puck and even deliver checks. Belanger’s versatility got a quick workout. In a one-month period, he was the Kings first line center, Lowell’s second line center, a healthy scratch for the Kings to the checking center alongside Stu Grimson and Ian Lapperriere.Ever since the opening month, Belanger has been a mainstay in the Kings lineup. Belanger finished the regular season with 21 points in 62 games and was a +14. He saw time on all special teams and his skill in the face-off circle lead to the exits of Bob Corkum and Steve Reinprecht. Belanger has shown tenacity as a checker and has shown his strength and conditioning by taking several punishing checks. He has also shown flashes of the playmaking ability he exhibited as a junior.Belanger’s performance has been a blessing for the Kings. His performance has given the farm system a breather and he appears to be headed for a long NHL career. As the Kings rebuild their system, the development of gritty, skilled, two-way players like Eric Belanger will be key.NOTES-Kip Brennan is playing for the Sudbury Wolves in the playoffs and shown some offense. In addition to his 79 penalty minutes in 10 playoff games, he added 5 goals and 6 assists.Lowell defenseman Joe Corvo continues to impress after sitting out a year. He has 3 goals in 3 playoff games for Lowell.