Making his professional debut this fall is one of the top center prospects in the system: Luca del bel Belluz. He’s quietly making a nice adjustment to AHL hockey with the Cleveland Monsters.
The moment Luca del bel Belluz was drafted by the Blue Jackets, he became arguably the best true center prospect they had. Some of that depends on how you feel about Kent Johnson’s ability to be a center at the highest level; but it doesn’t change the fact that del bel Belluz has the potential to be a top-nine center in the NHL. Which makes him a very interesting piece of this club’s future.
Drafted by the Blue Jackets in the second round (#44 overall) at the 2022 NHL Draft, del bel Belluz only played one additional season of junior hockey before turning pro. Due to a late birthday, he counts as a 20-year old player in the CHL, so he’s eligible to play in the AHL this season. In his final year in the OHL last season, he scored 40 goals and 87 points in just 66 games; split between Mississauga and Sarnia.
His adjustment to the AHL has gone about as expected: up and down. Through 12 games, he has 2 goals and 9 points; but that productivity has been very streaky. He scored 5 points in a 3 game stretch early on, then had a 5 game stretch with 0 points – and now has 4 points in his last 3 games.
Though he’s not a huge body (6’0″, around 180 pounds), I think del bel Belluz projects nicely as a solid middle-six, two-way center in the NHL. He has really good hands and an ability to play through traffic; and is equally adept at making a nice pass to an open teammate, or firing a quick shot on goal. This combination of skills and a willingness to work in tight spaces, makes him a dangerous scoring threat whenever he’s on the ice.
His two-way game needs refining, but he has a clear understanding of what it takes to be a center. He knows he has to be the third defender in his own end, and competes to do so. While he doesn’t play the same physical style you see in Boone Jenner, I like to project Luca as that kind of player in the NHL. The type of guy who plays well in traffic, and does a lot of the little things. I also think his production will be around that level, say 40-60 points at his peak. So he probably won’t be your top line center, but he projects as a very capable player for the middle of the lineup.
I fully expect Luca del bel Belluz to play out the season in Cleveland. It would be a mistake to rush him into the NHL; the most important thing for him at this time is gaining confidence with his scoring, while learning the ins and outs of playing center at the professional level. In fact, I don’t even know if he’ll be ready next year – he’s a little bit of a project, so don’t look for an NHL ready player here until 2025. I think, in time, he’ll be a real good one.