Luca Del Bel Belluz has the name.
He also has the game, too.
The Blue Jackets took the Canadian center with the No. 44 overall pick of the 2022 draft, and they haven’t been disappointed with what many considered one of the top available centers in the draft.
Del Bel Belluz possesses a solid two-way game with some scoring touch, as evidenced by his 50 goals and 117 points in 102 Ontario Hockey League games the past two seasons.
But this has been a bit of an interesting season for Del Bel Belluz, as the 19-year-old began the season with Mississauga but was traded to Sarnia at the OHL’s trade deadline. The Sting has loaded up to make a potential title run this season, adding Del Bel Belluz and Chicago draft pick Ethan Del Mastro from Mississauga and Anaheim draft pick Sasha Pastujov throughout the season to add to a core that already included six NHL draft picks.
“So far, coming back to the OHL, it’s been a pretty up and down kind of season,” Del Bel Belluz told Dylan Tyrer on the Pipeline Podcast. “I started off in Mississauga and obviously not everything went too well there. I ended up getting traded to the Sarnia Sting. That’s been a whole different process. It’s definitely different considering I had been in Mississauga for four years and it’s pretty much all I know. It’s way different than moving away from home, and having to billet now is definitely different, but I’ve been really enjoying it here.”
Del Bel Belluz was one of the top scorers in the OHL at the start of the season and finished his Mississauga tenure this year with a 20-21-41 line in 34 games. It took him some time to settle in with Sarnia, but Del Bel Belluz has three goals and six assists in nine games, including a two-goal game Saturday against Saginaw.
Hear more from Del Bel Belluz on what it was like to be drafted by the Blue Jackets and take part in training camp, his favorite music and movies away from the ice, and much more in this week’s episode of the Pipeline Podcast.
Monsters Get Some Wins
The Cleveland Monsters hope to have built a little momentum as the calendar turns to February.
The top farm team of the Blue Jackets won two of its last three contests this past month, capturing wins over Charlotte and Laval to score two victories in a row before Saturday’s 7-4 loss vs. the Rocket ended the month. The Monsters won just four of 12 games in the month, but with 32 games left in the AHL schedule, the team hopes to finish strong and qualify for Calder Cup playoff action.
The Monsters currently sit in sixth place in the seven-team North Division with 37 points, with the top five teams making the playoffs. Cleveland will need to rally down the stretch, but fifth-place Laval is just five points ahead as the calendar flips.
The Jan. 27 win over Laval ran the team’s win streak to two, as Cleveland rallied to earn a 3-2 victory in overtime. Josh Dunne was the hero, assisting in Joona Luoto’s tying goal early in the third period and then scoring the winner at 4:02 of the extra frame. Trey Fix-Wolansky also scored for the Monsters, while Jet Greaves made 36 saves in net.
Things didn’t go quite as well for Greaves or the Monsters a day later, as Laval chased the goalie in the second period on the way to a 7-4 decision. Roman Ahcan, Brandan Davidson, Cole Fonstad and Justin Richards all scored for Cleveland, which fell into an early 3-0 hole, fought back to 3-2, but then went down 5-2 and could never make it a single-goal game again.
Cleveland will host home games this weekend as Chicago comes to town Friday and Saturday, and fans of a certain age should enjoy the turn-back-the-clock promotion as the Monsters will wear the uniforms of the old IHL Cleveland Lumberjacks for both games. Notable alumni from the IHL team will make appearances throughout the weekend including Jock Callander, Dave Michayluk and Perry Ganchar.
After that, defenseman David Jiricek will take part in the AHL All-Star festivities, including the skills competition Sunday and the game Monday in Laval, Quebec. The 19-year-old, who was chosen in the first round of the 2022 draft, is the second youngest player to take part in the AHL All-Star Game in the modern era.
Back To School
The Blue Jackets have four drafted prospects currently playing NCAA hockey, but if the 16-team postseason tournament began today, all would be watching from the sidelines.
It’s been a tough year for team success for Corson Ceulemans, Guillaume Richard, Aiden Hreschuk and Robbie Stucker, but there still have been some good moments on an individual level for those squads.
A first-round pick of the Blue Jackets in the 2021 draft, Ceulemans has had a fair share of production on a Wisconsin team that sits in last place in the Big Ten. The big, talented sophomore defenseman sits tied for third on the squad with 15 points, posting six goals and nine assists in 23 games in what is likely the best conference in Division I. He also has a plus-1 rating.
Stucker, meanwhile, was just named the Defender of the Week in Hockey East for his contributions to the University of Vermont. The 2017 seventh-round draft pick scored the game-winning goal in overtime Saturday, delivering the Catamounts a home win over No. 16 Merrimack. On the season, the big defenseman has a 3-7-10 line in 24 games.
Richard, another sophomore defenseman with size and offensive ability who was taken in the fourth round of the 2021 draft, has missed time recently with Providence but has a 1-3-4 line in 21 games. Hreschuk, a 2021 third-round pick acquired from Carolina at the trade deadline last year, is a sophomore defenseman who has two assists in 22 games.
- The usual Jordan Dumais scoring update finds the 2022 third-round pick having posted nine assists in the last three games, including a five-assist showing Jan. 21. His current line of 32-54-86 in 41 games places him second in the Canadian Hockey League in scoring, two points behind presumed No. 1 overall pick Connor Bedard, and second in the CHL in assists, one behind Sarnia’s Ty Voit.
- Denton Mateychuk had a January to remember, as the 12th overall pick in the 2022 draft racked up the points. The swift-skating defenseman posted 15 assists in 13 games and now boasts a 6-42-48 line in 44 games with Moose Jaw of the WHL. Still just 18, Mateychuk is tied for third among WHL defensemen in scoring with…
- Stanislav Svozil, who has made it back to Regina after his impressive run as captain of Czechia’s silver medal-winning squad at the World Juniors. Svozil, a 2021 third-round pick of the CBJ, is tied for the league lead with 43 assists with Bedard, one ahead of Mateychuk, all in 33 games. Since returning from the World Juniors, Svozil has 11 assists in seven games and is plus-7.
- The Blue Jackets signed goaltender Nolan Lalonde after an impressive stint at the team’s training camp, but the 18-year-old has struggled throughout the season with Erie of the OHL. So it was nice for Lalonde to get some good news this past weekend, as he started consecutive wins for the Otters. In the latter contest against Niagara, he saved 29 of 31 shots.
- Defenseman Nikolai Makarov has been promoted to the KHL, and the 2021 fifth-round pick is currently earning a regular shift with CSKA Moscow. Makarov has spent most of the season with CSKA’s junior squad, but he has skated seven times with the big club this month. Makarov has compiled no points and an even plus-minus in an average of 9:25 per game, but that’s a solid amount of ice time in the KHL for who just turned 20.