Jordy Bellerive waited a little longer than he would have liked for his first professional point.
Bellerive, 20, was a healthy scratch for the Penguins' season opener against Hershey on Oct. 5, mainly by virtue of being a rookie on a deep team of forwards.
Bellerive made his season debut in the next game, the following week in Lehigh Valley, playing on the team's fourth line. Seven games into the season, he was still searching for his first professional point.
Last week, in Bellerive's eighth game of the season, he finally connected with a 5-on-3 power play goal:
"It was a pretty special feeling, I was getting a little frustrated there," he told me after. "I had some good looks throughout the season so far. It took me a little longer than I had hoped," he laughed. "But it was a great feeling."
Bellerive has spent much of the season centering the third line, and has been playing on the team's second power play unit. With Adam Johnson, Sam Lafferty, and Joseph Blandisi returned to Pittsburgh, Bellerive is now playing on the left wing of the fourth line with Chase Berger and Jake Lucchini.
Bellerive isn't putting up as many shots as he'd like at this point of the season, which is why it took so long for his first goal to come. In juniors, he was a shot production machine, even in the defense-minded WHL. In 2017-18 he averaged 4.5 shots on goal per game, a figure that dropped to a still strong 3.9 shots per game last season. In Wilkes-Barre, he has 10 shots in 10 games so far. Getting off more shots is something he'd obviously like to improve upon. Even if he isn't finishing much yet, he could still create rebound opportunities for his linemates.
"Any time you can get a lot of shots on net, you're creating opportunities for yourself and other guys around you," he said.
Bellerive's physical game makes him a good candidate to fill that fourth line role, and even when he isn't contributing offensively the way he'd like, he can still help the team.
"When things aren't going well maybe that's when I can chip in and try to be a positive presence physically," he said. "That's something that'll always be a part of my game."
I asked Bellerive if there's anything about the professional game that is different from juniors that he thinks he's still adjusting to, and he pointed to the same elements that nearly all players in his position say is an adjustment.
"The biggest thing is the speed," he said. "Defensively, there's just so much less time to make plays and stuff like that. In the offensive zone, someone is always coming on you right away. There are bigger, stronger guys. Just capitalizing on chances is a lot harder in pro than it is in junior."
Bellerive actually made his professional debut last season, when he played three games with Wilkes-Barre as a Black Ace when Lethbridge's season ended. It was a short stint, and he didn't put up any points, but it gave him a preview of what to expect this season.
"Honestly, coming in last year, I had no idea what to expect," he said. "A little bit of a taste there was nice, to get a feel for it and find out what I needed to work on over the summer."
After Bellerive was badly burned in a bonfire accident two summers ago, he had to readjust the way he positions his hands on his stick because of the scars. At this point, he said he's "pretty used to" his hands, and doesn't think that's something he's still adjusting to.
Something he is adjusting to a little bit is life off the ice. In juniors, players live with billet families, who do so much for the players at home. With no billets, Bellerive has had to do some learning.
"This is my first season living on my own," he laughed. "It's different. I learned to cook a little bit, do my laundry. It's pretty nice."
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