Kieffer Bellows celebrating one of his 14 goals with the Marlies
Photo credit: AHL

Leafs facing major decision regarding former 1st round pick this week

Published January 8, 2024 at 10:36

On the 30th of October, the Toronto Marlies signed forward Kieffer Bellows to a PTO after he had been released by the Carolina Hurricanes - ironically on another PTO. The former first round pick had found it difficult to translate his junior success to success at the pro level, but perhaps his recent stretch with the Marlies might have changed that.

Since making his debut on the 3rd of November in a game against the Laval Rocket, Bellows has scored 14 goals and 23 points in 24 games. What's even more impressive is that all 14 goals have been scored at even strength.

After a blistering start, Bellows endured a 6-game point drought in the middle of his PTO but since then he has scored 8 goals and 11 points in his last 10 games. His 14 goals leads the team with Alex Steeves in 2nd with 12 and Logan Shaw in 3rd with 10.

Drafted in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders, Bellows only managed to suit up in 68 games across parts of 4 seasons with the Islanders, scoring just 11 goals and 25 points before joining the Philadelphia Flyers. He found it even more difficult under John Tortorella as he scored just 3 goals in 27 games last season, while averaging 9:47 TOI.

When the Marlies signed him to a PTO earlier in the season, the hope was that his reunion with John Gruden - former assistant coach for the Islanders - would jumpstart his game. Bellows had also spent some time in the USNTDP junior circuit alongside current Marlies GM Ryan Hardy, who at the time was the Director of Player Personnel.

When asked about Bellows' PTO, Gruden was quoted as saying:

"He's a dangerous player. He's big, he's strong, he's got a great release. And if he plays in straight lines and he uses his body to his advantage, he's only going to get better Hopefully he continues to do so."

The injuries were piling up in Toronto with Ryan Tverberg, Bobby McMann, and Roni Hirvonen each missing some games, which gave Bellows an even bigger chance to succeed. He scored a goal in his debut and started out his Marlies tenure on an 8-game point streak where he scored 6 goals and 12 points.

The Leafs have an important decision to make on Bellows this week. As a PTO can only span 25 games, Bellows has already played in 24 games, so he has just 1 game remaining on his PTO before the Leafs will have to decide whether or not to sign him. Bellows is free to sign with any NHL team and will not require re-entry waivers, meaning that whoever signs him won't have to worry about another team claiming him, unless they opt to place him on waivers for the purpose of an AHL assignment.

The decision seems like a simple one if you're the Leafs. With how well Bellows has played, the team will likely either attempt to sign him to an NHL contract or an AHL contract, though an AHL contract appears less likely, given Bellows' tremendous level of production this season.

January 8   |   1069 answers
Leafs facing major decision regarding former 1st round pick this week

Will the Maple Leafs sign forward Kieffer Bellows to a deal at the conclusion of his PTO this week?

Yes58955.1 %
No11610.9 %
They'll offer him an AHL deal36434.1 %
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