Last summer was the stuff of nightmares for Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Jordy Bellerive. An innocent house party with fellow and former teammates at the family home of teammate Tyler Wong turned tragic as an explosion from the fire burned Bellerive and former teammate Matt Alfaro. Fellow teammate Ryan Vadervlis was critically injured and spent months in the hospital.
Bellerive suffered severe burns to his hands and spent 12 days in the hospital. Fortunately, Vandervlis also recovered after weeks in the hospital, six surgeries and burns to 50% of his body.
The harrowing experience left Bellerive feeling more grateful.
“Absolutely. There was always a chance with the incident I had that you’re never going to play the game again,” Bellerive said. “(The doctors) mentioned I maybe wouldn’t play again for a year. I got to play the whole year.”
It wasn’t an easy year for Bellerive. He powered through the tragedy. Forced his way back into hockey. And scored 33 goals for the Lethbridge Hurricanes last season. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t 100%.
“Id say (getting to 100%) took over a year. Probably a month ago, honestly. I went into last season not feeling anywhere close to 100%,” Bellerive admitted. “I thought I was, but a long season like that, with all of the things I went through in the summer, they carried on into the season but I didn’t expect them to.”
And this is where you get a sense of the bulldog personality which is Bellerive. He speaks honestly but confidently. He’s got a little chip on his shoulder but not one which makes him standoffish. He’s determined. 33 goals aren’t bad, unless you ask him.
“They were pretty good numbers. From my expectations from the year before, I would have liked to have a lot more than that,” he said. “Considering, I think it was all right. There were definitely a lot of long nights and battling with serious pain.”
Bellerive arrived at his first Penguins Development Camp in June 2017 as an undrafted free agent. He was a camp standout. He also shined in other Penguins events and had a contract before the fall. He finished his junior eligibility this spring. Now, there’s no turning back.
Not that Bellerive has any other goals in mind but being a professional hockey player.
“For me, I just want to prove that I’m not a junior hockey player. I want to make the jump to pro hockey. I’ll do that whatever way I can.”
The Penguins fireplug prospect is 5-foot-10 but 195 pounds. His tenacity and physicality will be his key to professional hockey. He doesn’t yet appear to have top-level speed burst but nor is he slow. And he should benefit from more professional instruction both for his game and his skating.
Bellerive’s scouting report included the phrase “fiercely competitive.”
Given the adversity he had to overcome, and the physical limitations and pains, his dogged attitude should win fans eager to see a prospect whose name was not called at the 2017 NHL Draft surge past other draftees with his unrelenting ambition.
He takes the practice drills seriously. He’s the kind of prototype grinder the league is moving towards; a fourth line guy with enough hands to contribute offensively but not so much talent that he demands a featured role. Bellerive is ready to play professional hockey. However, or wherever the Penguins send him.
Given the stories we’ve endured over the past couple of months in Pittsburgh, that kind of player is a welcome change.