Del Bel Belluz aims to perfect two-way game ahead of 2022 NHL Draft

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The 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft will take place July 7-8 at the Bell Center in Montreal. The first round will take place on July 7 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS) and rounds 2-7 will take place on July 8 (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS). NHL.com counts down to the draft with detailed top prospect profiles, podcasts and other features.

Today, a look at center Luca Del Bel Belluz from Mississauga of the Ontario Hockey League. Complete coverage of the NHL.com Draft can be found here.

Luca Del Bel Belluz has a quality you don’t always see in players his age. Although he likes to produce offensively, he is just as focused on his mastery of the defensive zone.

“I’m a two-way center,” said the 18-year-old. “I like to play both sides of the rink and I’m very creative with the puck, a good point guard. But I also like to score goals.

No. 8 among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting Final Standings, Del Bel Belluz had 76 points (30 goals, 46 assists) in 68 games in his second season with Mississauga of the Ontario Hockey League. He ranked second at Mississauga in points (one point behind forward James Hardie), and his plus-23 rating was tied for 15th in the OHL among forwards.

“I think he’s one of the best 200-footers in the draft, from what I see,” Mississauga coach James Richmond said. “He makes small professional retail plays that not all junior players see or are able to do.”

“In the defensive zone, you don’t see him continuing the game. People say to me, ‘He doesn’t do much in the D zone and the puck just comes to him. And I’m like, ‘Yeah, you’re looking at a professional NHL center and that’s what they do.’ They come back low, they are slow in their D-zone and when they get it they go for it and it always seems to be in the right spot.

“He’s always really, really in a solid defensive position in the D zone and when the puck comes to him, it’s a quick transition up the ice.

Joey Tenute, who specializes in evaluating OHL prospects for NHL Central Scouting, agrees with Richmond’s assessment.

“He has an underrated game and habits,” Tenute said. “I think he’s more of an all-around player than the guy who puts numbers. So I think he’s got the top six upside down to the next level. I think he’s got a long track and a high ceiling and I think he’s a very exciting prospect.”

After being selected by Mississauga in the third round (51st overall) of the OHL Priority Selection in 2019, Del Bel Belluz has progressed steadily since his rookie season in 2019-20, when he had six points (one goal, five assists) in 58 games. He said he was inspired by NFL star Tom Brady, who was selected in the sixth round (No. 199) of the 2000 NFL Draft but went on to become arguably the greatest quarterback- back of all time.

“Being a late draft pick and it’s all about what you put in the game,” Del Bel Belluz said. “Being a late draft pick and not having too many guys on your side, just proving a lot of people wrong, I think is a good thing to do.”

Del Bel Belluz (6-foot, 179 pounds) credits some of his progress to the work he put in at the gym when the 2020-21 OHL season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. He grew about four inches and added 30 pounds in the 18 months between competitive matches.

“It was just a lot of training and getting into the gym,” he said. “The gymnasium was huge for me. It was a big step for me. I took it really seriously because the ice wasn’t there so the gymnasium was a big part of it. Honestly, I think that’s me. helped a lot. I think it really changed my game and took it to the next level.”

Richmond said the growth of Del Bel Belluz’s game since his rookie season has been spectacular.

“He hasn’t really filled in yet,” Richmond said, “but the scouts tell me he gets pinned by two guys and then he wiggles and twists and he runs a fire in front of the net or up to the ‘D’ and then it comes to the net.These are pro retail games.

“A lot of junior guys are in a rush to play because they hear the game is fast and you have to play fast. But I think too many guys want to play in a hurry. But you can’t play fast. haste. You have to play with speed but you have to play with your head. He does those things really, really well.

Since the summer following his rookie season in the OHL, Del Bel Belluz, who earned a spot on the academic honor roll in high school, has been laser-focused on getting into the best possible position heading into the draft. 2022 of the NHL, even despite the uncertainty during the canceled OHL season.

“Not really difficult to stay motivated,” said Del Bel Belluz. “My dad was always there for me and we always had a motto this year. From 24 months until the draft, he always says to me: ‘You have 23 months left, 22 months, give it that’s it, that’s all. He’s been my backbone that way and he’s been awesome for me.”

Richmond said Del Bel Belluz is constantly looking to improve.

“I’ll be honest, he’s been one of the guys who’s been most open to learning and adding to his game,” Richmond said. “He’s one of those guys who’s going to say to me, ‘What are we working on tomorrow morning?’ He just shows up and wants to do everything we’re working on. It’s not easy to say about all the junior players I’ve had that have gone on. He’s truly been a coach’s dream . “

Pictures: Charles Warburton, Mississauga (OHL)

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