Our annual, 2021 version of the top players under the age of 25 in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.
#25: Santeri Airola
#24: Jan Drozg
#23: Will Reilly
#22: Clayton Phillips
#21: Chase Yoder
#20: Kirill Tankov
#19: Raivis Ansons
#18: Lukas Svejkovsky
#17: Judd Caulfield
#16: Johnathan Gruden
#15: Kasper Bjorkqvist
#14: Jordy Bellerive
#13: Cam Lee
#12: Drew O’Connor
#11: Joel Blomqvist
#10: Isaac Belliveau, LH defenseman
2020 Ranking: NR
Age: 18 (November 26, 2002)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 185 pounds
Acquired Via: 2021 NHL Draft (Fifth Round, Pick #154 overall)
Isaac Belliveau is one of the most intriguing prospects and projects in the Penguins’ system right now. He has immense promise and upside, and some skills that can’t be taught, which is why he gets ranked so highly in this year’s T25U25 countdown. (Pittsburgh not having a ton of high-end talent is also another major reason).
What Belliveau can be is tantalizing. He’s 6’2 with good skating and offensive ability. During the 2019-20 season he was seen as a potential first round pick, and he backed that long-term projection up by recording 53 points in 62 games with Rimouski. Belliveau was a key figure on the power play, and often shared the ice with future first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere, in a move that no doubt helped boost his points total.
From there, 2020-21 was not as friendly, Rimouski was weakened by losing players like Lafrieniere and Belliveau struggled. His year got a bit more on course after a mid-season trade to Gatineau, where he was able to finish a bit stronger with 12 points in 21 games with his new team.
A tale of two teams. Traded from Rimouski to Gatineau early on. pic.twitter.com/sQzKchgPbP— BairWithMe (@BairWith) July 24, 2021
As a result, Belliveau’s draft stock was all over the board. The NHL Central Scouting Service had him at 75th for North American players with the scouting report of: “Good size and awareness. Has good puck skills and can move the puck well”. Some thought he could be a third round pick, but he slipped to the fifth round for Pittsburgh.
Here’s what director of player personnel Chris Pryor had to say about the selection after the pick:
Pittsburgh Penguins Director of Player Personnel Chris Pryor on Isaac Belliveau, selected in the 5th round-154th overall in the 2021 NHL Draft. -DP (Video courtesy @penguins.) pic.twitter.com/VeAbLJynI4— AT&T SportsNet™ PIT (@ATTSportsNetPIT) July 26, 2021
“He can play both sides of the puck, but sometimes he can get caught up. He’s got to tone it down, but there’s a lot to like. He’s a bigger kid. For some of these kids, it’s a natural progression, learning as they get older, that maturity level as far as what they can and can not do. That just comes with maturity. He’s got a lot going for him, he’s a bigger kid, has a little edge to his game, and has good puck game.”
Belliveau’s highlights show his mix of size, skating and offensive ability.
Plays like this one are what should make @penguins fans excited about the development of @OlympiquesGAT's defenseman Isaac Belliveau.— Brayden Olafson (@olaf1393) July 24, 2021
Fleet-footed, skilled & adaptive with the puck - both handling and distribution. Has some room to grow in terms of his pivots & rush defense. pic.twitter.com/NxRMWB9sIH
Skating in a 3v3 OT situation is no big deal either.
Comme souvent au hockey...une chance d'un côté, et un but l'autre côté quelques secondes après! Isaac Belliveau (3e de la saison) qui procure la victoire aux @OlympiquesGAT 2-1 face à son ancienne équipe l'@oceanicrimouski #LHJMQ #QMJHL #2021NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/3vjw2Pe60C— Benoit Belanger (@BenoitGBelanger) February 13, 2021
Here’s a clip of Belliveau in his draft-1 season of 2019-20, where he looks even more confident and authoritative in this clip then in some of his 2020-21 film. If he can build and grow off some of the tools he shows here with his skating, pivots, puck movement and control of the puck that would show why some considered him a potential high draft pick.
45 seconds of Isaac Belliveau is all you need to see to be convinced! Standing at 6’0” and 180 lbs at 17, his physical maturity is impressing. His main strengths are his confidence, his quick decision-making and his first pass! @oceanicrimouski @LHJMQ #NHLDraft2021 @InStatHockey pic.twitter.com/Af0gYontSR— Jean-Sébastien Lecomte (@JSLecomte) August 2, 2020
If you’re looking for a reliable sleeper candidate to out-perform a draft ranking right now in the Penguin system, Belliveau is your player to watch as he now goes through the second half of his junior career. He jumped on the map very early with all his success in 2019-20, but hit a rough patch that caused him to drop in the beginning of the 2020-21 season until a trade to a new team gave his season a fresh start.
Belliveau is the type of player with real upside and skills and ability. Other teams may have a handful of these in their system, but the list of defensemen for Pittsburgh’s pool that are 6’2 and can move and run a power play is very limited. Belliveau has some areas to work on, he could stand to get better defensively in his positioning and consistency.