Welcome back to the new iteration of The Hot List, now known as Prospect Need to Know. The NCAA season kicked off in earnest on the weekend and though I’d like a bit more of a sample size before handing out accolades, let it be known that Arizona prospect Maxim Letunov had a hat trick in his first game with UConn. And yes, Calgary Flames fans, Mark Jankowski is off to a hot start with Providence. There’s a lot of goodness to cover off this week, so let’s get right to it:
Kieffer Bellows, LW – U.S. NTDP (USHL): USA Hockey's National Team Development Program has been on a great run of top-end forwards lately, from Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews to Dylan Larkin. This year's leaders are already coming to the fore in center Clayton Keller and left winger Kieffer Bellows, a pair of Boston U. commits tearing it up.
Bellows is the son of ex-NHLer Brian Bellows and the scoring genes definitely sync up. Kieffer has seven goals and nine points through nine games, putting him second only to Keller (13 points) on the NTDP. The left winger is actually a bit of an outlier, as he will play just one year with the program instead of two; last season he was busy helping Sioux Falls win a USHL championship.
“It was a hard decision leaving Sioux Falls after such a great year,” Bellows said. “When I went to visit the Program, coach (Danton) Cole made me feel like I was already part of the team. The guys made me feel comfortable too and I can't thank them enough for that.”
Bellows, born and raised in Minnesota, actually has two titles in two years. Before hitting up the USHL, he was part of the Edina Hornets squad that won the vaunted Minnesota state high school tournament. There, he was coached by another ex-NHLer, as well.
"Playing that year of high school hockey was fantastic," Bellows said. "It really helped my development with Curt Giles as my coach and a lot of older guys on the team. Playing in the state tournament is something you always dream about as a kid.”
A power forward with sweet 1-on-1 moves, a great compete level and scoring touch, Bellows is very close to his dad, whether the two are talking hockey or wakeboarding together.
“He means everything to me,” Kieffer said. “He comes to all my games. He’s something special; he’s my best friend.”
And while Kieffer may not go second overall in the draft like his dad, his skill set and drive have him looking like a player who will have a similarly long and fruitful career.
In the Pipeline
Jayce Hawryluk, C (Florida): The Brandon Wheat Kings are what we expected them to be – one of the best in the WHL. Hawryluk, who combines smarts, physicality and skill, has led the way with 15 points in six games, also making him the league's top scorer.
Dennis Yan, LW (Tampa Bay): Slick skating and excellent offensive skills are Yan's calling cards, which have been on full display in his sophomore campaign with Shawinigan. The Quebec League's first star of the week has 10 points in his past two games, including a hat trick in each outing. Another Bolts prospect on fire? Brayden Point with Moose Jaw (nine points in three games, WHL player of the week).
Erik Cernak, D (Los Angeles): The Kings assigned Cernak to OHL Erie in late September, but the big Slovakian obviously wasn't too keen on playing juniors, because now L.A. has sent him to the AHL's Ontario Reign instead. Cernak had already been playing against men back home, but this will be a good challenge for the mobile D-man.
2016 Draft Stars
Auston Matthews, C – ZSC Lions (Swi.): Eight games in and Matthews is still humming with Zurich. The top prospect for 2016 now has six goals and eight points, putting him in a tie for first on the Lions, despite the fact he has played less games than his mates. All that strength, hockey IQ and offensive creativity is helping him deliver as hoped.
Dante Fabbro, D – Penticton Vees (BCHL): I was all set to feature Pencticton's Tyson Jost this week (23 points in 11 games), but then teammate Fabbro grabbed the headlines by committing to Boston University. Fabbro is an excellent two-way D-man who leads the B.C. Jr. A circuit in points from the back end with 16 through 10 games. The Terriers are building an incredible recruiting machine under coach David Quinn.
Alex DeBrincat, RW – Erie Otters (OHL): Early lesson from this season: if you don't get a beat on DeBrincat early, pencil yourself in for a long night. The diminutive and dynamic scorer has posted two five-point outings already, with five goals one night and four the other. DeBrincat leads the league in scoring with 13 points through five contests.
Jesse Puljujarvi, RW – Karpat Oulu (Fin.): Hey, what's going on in Europe these days? Gahhhhh! Did you see this Puljujarvi goal?
That was earth-shaking and he did it against full-grown men on Tappara, one of the best teams in Finland. Puljujarvi now has six points in 11 games for Karpat and it's pretty obvious the kid has some nice tools in his game.
Cam Morrison, C – Youngstown Phantoms (USHL): A 6-foot-2, 203-pound power forward with a nice offensive touch, Morrison is a Notre Dame commit playing in his first USHL campaign. So far, the 2016 prospect has been a driver for the Phantoms with five points through four games. Much of his success has come alongside fellow big boys Chase Pearson and James Winkler.
2017 Draft Star
Maxime Comtois, LW – Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL): Taken third overall this summer by the Tigres, Comtois has paid immediate dividends with eight goals and 14 points in his first 12 games. Particularly lethal on the power play, Comtois has an excellent shot and can also do good work in tight thanks to his strength.
Providence College recruit Erik Foley was a highly-anticipated freshman this season, but the tenacious winger’s regular season debut was pushed back after he took a high hit during an exhibition game. Foley, a Winnipeg Jets second-rounder in 2015, was held out of this weekend’s series against Miami, largely for precautionary reasons. From what I’m hearing, there’s a decent chance he’ll play against Holy Cross on Friday.