This season could very well be Kieffer Bellows’ last chance to prove that he can carve out a place within the New York Islanders — though it ultimately depends on how new head coach Lane Lambert and general manager Lou Lamoriello view the likelihood of that happening.
The 24-year-old left-winger selected 19th overall in the 2016 draft played in a career-high 45 games last season with a COVID and injury-riddled Islanders team, recording six goals and 13 assists while averaging just 11:52 of ice time.
Once viewed as a high-upside prospect that could provide an internal option for the organization’s much-needed upgrade in a scoring winger, limited playing time has resulted in just 11 goals and 14 assists in 67 games across three seasons.
Still, he and the Islanders agreed on a one-year, $1.2 million deal — announced Monday — where he’ll fight for a spot with what seems like a pretty set group of left-wingers: Anders Lee, Anthony Beauvillier, Zach Parise, and Matt Martin.
“I view myself being a regular in the lineup,” Bellows said. “That’s what I want to be. I want to be making a big impact from Day 1, from Game 1 and that’s what I plan to do.”
It makes training camp an enormous stage for him in hopes of proving such a belief to first-year head coach Lane Lambert, who has seen Bellows plenty while acting as Barry Trotz’s lead assistant over the last four seasons.
“I plan to be good defensively but bring a big offensive flair. Use my shot and score some goals for this team,” he said. “I expect myself to have a good year. Last year when I was in the lineup on a regular basis, you saw the offensive flair and you saw my defensive reliability and I expect to bring that again this year.”
Nineteen points in 45 games aren’t necessarily much to write home about when looking for that offensive flair, but Bellows did show a glimpse of it during the second half of the season when he had more of a regular run in the lineup.
He recorded six points (2G, 4A) in the final nine games of the regular season, which ended without a playoff berth.
“I felt like I hit a good stride when I was playing those consistent games, I felt more comfortable every single night,” Bellows said. “Just building chemistry with the guys. Just this offseason I’ve been training with guys and working with a skating coach. It’s been a lot of work this summer, really focused on having a big year this year coming up.”