Penguins notebook: Jordy Bellerive's stock is up as he heads to juniors
Jordy Bellerive, one of the breakout performers of training camp, was one of eight players cut by the Penguins on Wednesday. The 18-year-old center will be heading back for another season with Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League.
Before he left town, though, Bellerive created the perfect blueprint for undrafted players looking to earn an NHL contract.
Bellerive was disappointed when he wasn't selected in June's draft. Stunned, even. His family, his agent and all the draft gurus thought for sure his name would be called. After all, Bellerive used his high-end offensive skill to score 27 goals as a 17-year-old in the WHL last season.
He's not sure why he was snubbed, but he thinks it's because scouts had doubts about his skating.
“I don't think it seems to be a big issue for me,” Bellerive said. “I had a big summer working on that. I'm doing everything I can to try to prove everyone wrong.”
Shortly after the draft, Bellerive formulated a plan. He had offers from multiple teams to attend development camp.
“I got the chance to kind of pick and choose where I wanted to go,” Bellerive said. “I believed in myself and Pittsburgh, and I thought it was a good spot for me to go and develop.”
In an exit meeting at the end of camp, Penguins management told Bellerive the areas where they thought his game could use some improvement. When he returned home, he asked his trainer to call Penguins strength coach Andy O'Brien to help put together a workout plan.
Bellerive trained faithfully the rest of the summer, then arrived at a rookie tournament in Buffalo earlier this month and dominated. He had multiple points in all three games he played, scoring a hat trick in one of them.
“I focused playing in all three zones and scoring, competing, finishing all my checks, doing what they do in the NHL,” Bellerive said. “I think it was huge for me. It was a life-changing experience.”
Last week, the Penguins signed him to an entry-level deal. He probably won't be ready for NHL duty for a couple more years, but he has entrenched himself as one of the organization's top prospects.
“I had a big summer,” Bellerive said. “It's a dream come true.”
Round of cuts
The other seven players the Penguins cut Wednesday will report to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. They are Baby Pens captain Tom Kostopoulos; forwards Ryan Haggerty, Reid Gardiner and Gage Quinney; defensemen Dylan Zink and Jeff Taylor; and goalie Sean Maguire.
After the cuts, 47 players remain on the training camp roster.
Of the players still on the Penguins camp roster, four have missed practice time because of injuries: wingers Patric Hornqvist (hand) and Tom Sestito (lower body), center Colin Smith (undisclosed) and defenseman Ethan Prow (undisclosed).
“They're all making progress,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “We don't expect any of them to be long term.”
The only players to appear in both Penguins exhibition games so far are forwards Greg McKegg and Teddy Blueger, which is probably not a coincidence. They're two of the top candidates for the vacant bottom-six center spots in the lineup.
“The exhibition season is a great opportunity to watch players play in a game environment,” Sullivan said. “I think that's really going to help us try to make the best decisions we can.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.