Our summer countdown of the top young players in the Penguins’ organization rolls on with a young defenseman who is about to start his professional journey this season.
2023 Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25: Graduates and Departed
#25: Daniel Laatsch
#24: Cooper Foster
#23: Thimo Nickl
#22: Dillon Hamaliuk
#21 Mikhail Ilyin
#20: Jack St. Ivany
#19: Chase Yoder
#18: Emil Jarventie
#17: Nolan Collins
#16: Raivis Ansons
#15: Ty Glover
#14: Taylor Gauthier
#13 Isaac Belliveau, LHD
2022 Ranking: No. 17
Age 20 (Nov. 26, 2002)
Acquired via: NHL Draft (Round 5, pick 154)
Height/weight: 6’2”, 185 lbs
Isaac Belliveau wrapped up a successful and productive major junior career this last year in junior. His stats popped in his very first year thanks to playing a lot with 2020 first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere but even since has settled into a rhythm of offensive success and play-driving that made him one of the better defenders in the Quebec major junior league.
Via Scott Wheeler in The Athletic back in January:
I think he was worth the fifth-round flyer the Penguins took on him. Belliveau’s got a pro frame and has worked to get into better shape so that his conditioning and skating doesn’t limit his above-average overall skill. He sees through pressure well when he looks to move the puck, and makes sound, calculated choices in distribution. So there are some pieces there, some of which have come back to the forefront a little more in Gatineau.
His backward skating and reads off of the puck can get him into trouble defending the rush and his forward acceleration (he moves well laterally) needs some fine-tuning. But he has become a real play-driver offensively in Gatineau and his underlying defensive results have been really strong this season, underscoring a game off the puck that has managed some of his deficiencies much better than he gets credit for. I’d sign him and the Penguins aren’t frankly in a position where they have to be picky about which prospects they bring into the fold. He’s a C or C+ prospect, but he’s a better prospect than some of the kids they’ve given deals to in recent years
Belliveau gives a lot to be optimistic about, but within reason. He is a fifth round pick. He wasn’t on the level of a second rounder, like junior teammate Tristan Luneau (a second rounder by Anaheim, who popped more in the Q last year). Belliveau has skill but it does look comparable to mid-round pick and not surefire potential big time player.
But every journey begins somewhere, and Belliveau is excited to take the next step in his career after making his way through the Q. As told to Nick Hart at WBSPenguins.com:
“You learn to be focused all the time,” the 20-year-old defenseman said. “A series like that, sometimes it can be a one-second difference between making a play, breaking up a play. One second makes all the difference. So you have to be focused the whole game.”
Belliveau plans to brings that lasered-in mentality to the pros this year. The blueliner is expected to be in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with the AHL Penguins in the fall. It will be his first foray into the professional ranks, and the 2021 fifth-round pick (154th overall) is thrilled to be taking that next step in his career.
“Oh, I’m really excited,” Belliveau said, unable to contain a wide smile. “It’s my dream. A dream come true. … I’ve spoken to the staff and the coaches, and I’m preparing to bring my best game to Wilkes-Barre this season.”
The Pens could use a success story and all the youth they can get, and are sure to provide Belliveau with the opportunity to make his mark and progress up the ranks. The team has loaded up on free agent defensemen signings, which could make initial impact difficult, but a young player like Belliveau will start at the ground floor and then we’ll all see where it goes from there.