With the Penguins in the midst of their offseason, the Tribune-Review is looking at all 49 players currently under NHL contracts to the organization in alphabetical order, from mid-level prospect Niclas Almari to top-six winger Jason Zucker.
Weight: 194 pounds
2020-21 AHL statistics: 29 games, 18 points (10 goals, eight assists)
Contract: Second year of a three-year entry-level contract with a salary cap hit of $733,333. Pending restricted free agent in 2022.
Acquired: Undrafted free agent signing, Sept. 16, 2017.
2020-21 season: Relatively little went well for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this past season.
Even if you account for the fact that the season was shortened due to the pandemic and the postseason (for most of the American Hockey League) was canceled for the same reason, you could not qualify the 2020-21 campaign as a success in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
With a 13-13-4-2 record, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton finished the abbreviated season in fifth place of the North Division and would have likely missed the postseason for the third consecutive season had the playoffs taken place.
Team success was scant. But there were more than a few bright spots as individual success was concerned.
Jordy Bellerive could be labeled as one of those successes.
Opening and closing the season as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s third-line center, Bellerive built on the foundation he established during 2019-20 in adapting to a bottom-six role and saw his offensive production improve slightly in his second professional season.
During the 2019-20 campaign, he had 12 goals in 53 games. Meanwhile, he only needed 29 games to get nearly the same total and finished the season as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s leading goal-scorer (tied with veteran forwards Josh Currie and Tim Schaller). Additionally, he was the team’s leader in game-winning goals.
Bellerive didn’t sacrifice feistiness for offense either as he led the team with 49 penalty minutes as well.
His figures might have been a bit more copious had he not been recalled to the NHL club’s taxi squad on two separate stints in February and March.
The future: With Evgeni Malkin likely to miss the early portions of 2021-22 (at least) due to a right knee injury, the potential departures of pending unrestricted free agents such as Frederick Gaudreau, Evan Rodrigues and Currie as well as the uncertain future of pending restricted free agents Teddy Blueger and Mark Jankowski, the Penguins could have some openings down the middle at the center position next season, at least early on.
Bellerive, who can also play left wing, is still a ways away from being a threat to make the NHL roster but he’s made progress. And he offers the base elements of a game this team needs from centers on the bottom two lines.
In addition to the skill set that allowed him to be a prolific scorer in the junior ranks for the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League (WHL), he’s brave. Having survived burns to various parts of his body as a result of a camp bonfire that flashed on him in June of 2018, Bellerive isn’t afraid to mix it up with opponents much larger than him.
During a 6-3 road loss to the Syracuse Crunch on March 24, he displayed his intrepidity by fighting 6-foot-3, 218 defenseman Sean Day:
That’s not a bad attribute to possess for a team with new management that professes a desire to add some toughness to the lineup.
A lot of things beyond Bellerive’s control need to go in his favor for him to play in any NHL games next season. But Bellerive has taken the right steps in that direction during his first two professional seasons.