Blue Jackets Sign WHL MVP and College Standout

By Bill Drake
The Blue Jackets are slowly filling out their roster, even before the
expansion draft. Two more roster spots were filled with the signings of
Brad Moran, formerly of the Calgary Hitmen (WHL); and Blake Bellefeuille,
Boston College (HE).

Brad Moran was this years WHL Most Valuable Player, leading the league
in scoring with 120 pts, capping off his WHL career with three straight 100
pt. seasons. Moran finished 9th all time in the WHL with 204 goals, and 4th
all time in playoff assists and points, 48 and 82. The Buffalo Sabres, who
drafted Moran in the 7th round of the 1998 Entry Draft (191st overall),
decided not to sign the 21 year old junior player, leading Mr. Breeze,
Moran’s agent, to issue the following tirade to the Associate Press: “Never
in my 15 years (as an agent) have I ever seen a player, and especially of
Brad’s elite status, treated with such cavalier indifferent arrogance.” Why
then would Buffalo pass on such an outstanding junior player, and Columbus
sign him?

Buffalo did not sign him for three main reasons: his age, his physical
abilities, and money. Moran is 21, playing in a league typically filled
with 18 year olds; this coupled with the fact that few overage junior
players go on to have solid NHL careers leaves Moran with one strike against
him. The second strike is his size and skating ability. Listed at 5-11 and
175 lbs, Moran must bulk up in order to succeed at the NHL level; combine
this with his skating deficiencies leaves Moran an huge hill to climb to
reach the NHL. The third strike against Moran, which is not all Moran’s
fault, is his asking price. Moran, read Breeze, was looking for rookie
salary cap figures while Buffalo countered with an AHL salary. Perhaps that
is the reason for Breeze’s tirade.

So why would Doug MacLean agree to sign a player with such deficiencies?
Again the answer comes in parts. The first part has to do with Moran
playing in 357 or 360 of Calgary’s regular season games and all of their 52
playoff games. Moran is a dependable and tough forward who can be counted
on to play hurt, something no statistic can accentuate. The second part of
the puzzle is made clearer with this quote from MacLean,”Not only is [Moran]
a tremendous playmaker, but he also exhibited great leadership serving as
the team captain last year and an assistant captain prior to that. We think
he has great potential.” Indeed Moran has shown, while riding shotgun to
Pavel Brendl, that he can distribute the puck very well. He also is a
leader on and off the ice.

Moran could just be a late-bloomer. Not realizing his potential until
later in life. Expansion gives Moran the ability to showcase his talents
and the chance to play in the NHL. Clearly his role will change and develop
as he progresses through the the minors and into the NHL but if Moran works
hard he should find a spot on the Blue Jackets squad. In what role however,
remains to be seen.

Earlier in the month Columbus also signed Boston College standout
forward Blake Bellefeuille. “We’re thrilled about having Blake join our
organization,” said Blue Jackets Assistant General Manager Jim Clark. “Other
than being a very solid overall player, what drew us to Blake was the
character and leadership he displayed on the ice every time we saw him. We
think he’s eventually going to be a great character guy for Columbus.”
Bellefeuille will need some seasoning in the AHL to become accustomed to pro
play but he should turn into a decent third liner and capable
penalty-killer, perhaps similar to New Jersey Devil PK specialist John
Madden. Bellefeuille won the Frank Jones award, given annually to the best
defensive forward in New England.

Brad Moran
Born 03-20-1979 -- Abbotsford, BC
Height 5.11 -- Weight 185 -- Shoots L

Season Team Lge Gm G A Pt PIM
1995-96 Calgary Hitmen WHL 70 13 31 44 28
1996-97 Calgary Hitmen WHL 72 30 36 66 61
1997-98 Calgary Hitmen WHL 72 53 49 102 64
1998-99 Calgary Hitmen WHL 71 60 58 118 96
1999-00 Calgary Hitmen WHL 72 48 72 120 84

Blake Bellefeuille
Born 12-27-1977 -- Framingham, MA
Height 5.10 -- Weight 208

Season Team Lge Gm G A Pt PIM
1996-97 Boston College NCAA 34 16 19 35 20
1997-98 Boston College NCAA 41 19 20 39 35
1998-99 Boston College NCAA 43 24 25 49 80
1999-00 Boston College NCAA 41 19 32 51 28