BUFFALO — The Islanders kept their pick at No. 19 on Friday night and went with a familiar name to NHL fans from a couple generations back.
After cycling through quite a bit of trade talk, general manager Garth Snow selected Minnesota native Kieffer Bellows, son of longtime Minnesota North Star Brian Bellows. The younger Bellows, a 6-foot, 196-pound forward, had 50 goals for the U.S. National Development Team this past season. He’s headed to Boston University in the fall.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a bigger smile on my face than I did just now,” Bellows said a few minutes after being selected. “I know the Islanders are a really historic organization and they’ve got Nick Leddy and Anders Lee, two Minnesota guys. It’s very surreal right now.”
It seemed that Snow would make a move out of that 19th spot in the hours leading up to the pick, either to try and package it in a move for a current top-six forward or to move down and try and add a pick in the second or third round.
“Things got kind of quiet today [on the trade front], the return on things we were discussing just wasn’t good enough to justify moving a first-round pick,” Snow said. “We had some options to move down but once we saw Kieffer was going to be there, we jumped at the chance to take him. We had him rated in our top 10.”
Much like his father, who had 485 goals and 1,022 points after being selected second overall in the 1982 draft, Kieffer Bellows has a knack for scoring goals. “We loved the fact that he never takes a shift off,” Snow said. “He’s gritty, he competes hard and he has high-end skill.”
Bellows got some good advice from his father, who “said he didn’t really remember his draft day,” according to Kieffer. “He just told me to enjoy the day, have fun with it. It’s unbelievable, really.”
Snow may have to find a different avenue to replace some key players on his roster than offering up a first-round pick. He said he hasn’t had any contact with the agents for Kyle Okposo or Matt Martin, who can both begin receiving calls from other teams as of 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
Snow spoke with Marc Levine, agent for Frans Nielsen, a few days ago but nothing since. The Isles would like to bring back Nielsen and have moved closer on a deal, but nothing is certain.
“We’ll always have an open mind and the players will get a better sense of where they stand this week,” Snow said. “We’ll see. As far as trades, we’ll keep making calls, we’ll keep taking calls and we’ll continue to try every option available to improve our club.”