BELLIVEAU LEARNED “FOCUS” IN FINAL JUNIOR SEASON
PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Isaac Belliveau and the Gatineau Olympiques were on an impressive run in this year’s QMJHL Playoffs. The team cruised through the first two rounds, posting an 8-1 record to reach the semifinals.
Then everything came to a screeching halt.
Gatineau lost in four games to the Québec Remparts, the club that not only won the QMJHL Championship but also the Memorial Cup. On the surface, it looks like swept by a superior team. However, a closer examination of the boxscores reveals that Belliveau and the Olympiques weren’t too far behind. Gatineau lost two games in overtime, and the decisive Game 4 was tied in the third period until Québec scored once at even strength and again with an empty netter.
It was a tough pill to swallow for Belliveau, who had to watch the team who ended his junior career lift a pair of trophies, but the soon-to-be pro took valuable a valuable lesson from that series.
“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.”
Belliveau’s passion for the game is obvious. Just a quick conversation with the young man reveals how much he loves playing the game and how grateful he is to have an opportunity to make a living in hockey. His excitement is bolstered by the fact that he was drafted by his favorite team growing up, the Pittsburgh Penguins. While his idol, Sidney Crosby, never cut his chops in the AHL, Belliveau’s grin doesn’t dwindle when he talks about taking the first steps in his development in Northeast Pennsylvania.
Even before setting foot in NEPA, Belliveau has received guidance from some fellow Québecois who know a thing or two about plying their trade in the Keystone State. Belliveau already has a relationship with Penguins prospects Sam Poulin and Nathan Légaré, and the pair of third-year pros have happily shared their experience when it comes to making the jump from the QMJHL to the AHL.
“I’ve been able to chat with them and they tell me that your first year pro, it is a very big step,” Belliveau said. “I know it will be the hardest hockey I’ve ever played, but it’s my passion. I’m excited, so I’m going to be prepared and be very focused for the next year.”
OTHER NOTES FROM DEVELOPMENT CAMP:
• Speaking of Poulin, the 22-year-old addressed the media for the first time since his personal leave of absence. Poulin missed roughly three and a half months last season to take care of his mental health, then returned to play in two games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before the end of the year.
“I worked a lot on myself in the past couple months, and right now I’m in a good place and ready to play hockey,” Poulin said. “That’s what matters to me right now.”
• J.D. Forrest also spoke to the media after practice on Saturday. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s head coach has always been complimentary of Poulin’s play along the boards and in the trenches, but he steered his praise in a new (and creative) direction this weekend.
“He’s a moose,” Forrest said with a straight face. “He can battle down low with anybody and he wins those battles most of the time,” Forrest said. “Whether it’s in the defensive end or the offensive end, down low, he’s just really hard to play against. You can’t get the puck from him, and then when he’s defending, he defends hard.”
• Forrest also referred to Ty Glover as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s “most improved player” last season. Forrest said he still felt that a lot of Glover’s toolset is raw and a work in progress, but few came as far from the start of 2022-23 to its finish than the speedy power winger.
• Taylor Gauthier turned some heads with some brilliant saves throughout the first two days of camp. Gauthier was signed by Pittsburgh to an NHL contract in March of 2022, but is only now starting to earn some chatter among media circles in the Steel City heading into year two of that deal.
• Development Camp is only three days this year, wrapping up with a mini-tournament between the prospects on Monday. Injured players who are unable to participate in the on-ice sessions are serving as team captains. Raivis Ansons is the captain of one team, as well as recent Wilkes-Barre/Scranton signing Avery Hayes. 2022 draft pick Nolan Collins is the captain of the third team.