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All-American Prospects game showcases NHL bloodlines

Kieffer Bellows has seen the clippings from when his father was drafted. He’s seen the headlines and even some video from when Brian Bellows was skating for the Minnesota North Stars in the 1980s.

“They were black and white back then,” Kieffer said with a smile.

“My dad sometimes doesn’t even remember his draft actually. It didn’t get as much publicity that it does now.

“I’ve gone through some of the old newspapers. Watching my dad, growing up he was my idol. I’ve seen some of his stuff. Back then the publicity was good but the social media now make a big difference.”

When Brian Bellows was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1982 draft there wasn’t wall to wall coverage of the draft let alone the attention potential picks get in the year leading up to the draft.

And they didn’t have events like Thursday night’s CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game serving as a showcase for NHL scouts and general managers. Bellows was part of the event at First Niagara Center which split the 42 best American-born players into teams coached by Derek Plante and Jeremy Roenick.

Bellows scored a short-handed empty-net goal to seal a 6-4 win for Team Plante in front of 5,548 at First Niagara Center.

Bellows was one of 11 players with NHL family ties and one of five players who have dads who played in the NHL.

“It’s amazing how many players’ kids are playing,” said Plante. “It’s fun to see how the kids play a lot like the dads a lot of times.”

Similar styles perhaps but always with a modern twist.

“It was a different game back then,” Bellows said. “There was a lot more hooking and holding going in the zone. A more physical game I’d say. It’s more of a skilled game now. That’s kind of the difference. I have to try to play a more skilled game but there are similarities in there.”

And then there’s the traditional chirping that comes when your dad played in the NHL. Particularly when the guy coaching you in the All-American Prospects Game was a linemate of your father’s for nearly five NHL seasons.

OK, maybe that only happens to Matthew Tkachuk whose father, Keith, played with Jeremy Roenick in Arizona.

Roenick told the story that Keith Tkachuk called him and told him he had to play his son a lot because he needed the exposure.

Turns out Matthew made that an easy decision. He had a goal and two assists and impressed everyone watching his game including Roenick.

“His hockey intelligence is really what stood out the most for me,” Roenick said. “Knew where to go and at that age you don’t see kids too often before they get the puck to be looking around and know where they’re going with the puck before they even get it and Matty did that four or five times with perfect passes right on the tape.

“If you watch him, he plays like a lot like Keith played. He’s in front of the net a lot and really plants himself. He’s not the fastest skater in the world but because of his hockey sense he puts himself in really good positions so he can get away with not being the fastest player. But he’s really strong and you can tell that if he’s going to get mad, he’s going to show some bite and some grit. I think that’s just ingrained in his blood from his dad.”

While the elder Tkachuk hasn’t coached his son in some time, Matthew said his father is a huge influence on his approach to hockey.

“His two main points of focus always are compete and be a good teammate,” Tkachuk said. “That’s what I focus on every day.”

While Bellows and Tkachuk come from family lines that coach them through the game on the ice, Griffin Luce has family ties that help guide him through the process of becoming a professional hockey player.

His grandfather is Don Luce, a member of the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame, while his father, Scott, is the director of scouting for the Florida Panthers.

“Growing up I played forward but when I switched back to D my grandfather took the role of how to pursue my hockey career instead of position wise,” Luce said. “He’s got a big role in my developing as a hockey player. … My dad would give me good pointers on who to watch and then I could model my game after them.”

Their advice for the prospects game was simple.

“Just go and play my game,” Luce said. “That’s all you can do. Don’t worry about the draft.”


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