Photo Credit: Robert Lefebvre/OHL Images
Scouting Report written by Paul Zuk
Arguably the clubhouse leader in terms of amazing 2022 NHL Draft prospect names, Mississauga Steelheads center Luca Del Bel Belluz is one of the more intriguing prospects currently playing in the OHL this season. Like most draft eligible CHL players, he unfortunately missed a very crucial development season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Del Bel Belluz was able to benefit from the missed season and worked on some of the imperfections in his game, as well as working on his overall physique, as he’s added roughly 30 pounds on his frame since his OHL rookie season in 2019/20.
Del Bel Belluz was born in Woodbridge, Ontario, and grew up playing his minor hockey within one of Ontario’s best leagues, the GTHL. He was drafted by the Steelheads with the 51st pick of the 2019 OHL Draft, after quite an impressive U16 season. One which saw him put up 53 goals and 48 assists for 101 points in 101 games across all competitions for the Toronto Red Wings. While many view the 2018/19 Don Mills Flyers as a powerhouse team, having Shane Wright, Brennan Othmann and Brandt Clarke, the Red Wings also fielded a solid amount of talent in the 2018/19 season. Joining Del Bel Belluz for the Red Wings that season was Francesco Pinelli, Adam Fantilli, and Ryan Gillespie.
As play resumed in the OHL for the 2021/22 season, Del Bel Belluz has shown the work he’s put in on almost every occasion possible. Not only has he exploded offensively while playing with line-mates James Hardie and Ty Collins most of the season, but Steelheads Head Coach James Richmond can trust him in all areas of the ice, regardless of the situation.
D.O.B – November 10, 2003
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –179 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Left
Del Bel Belluz’ Style of Play
Mississauga Steelheads Centre Luca Del Bel Belluz is an offensive-minded player who excels at just about everything in the offensive third of the ice. That’s not a knock on his abilities in the other two thirds, as he’s just as capable there as well.
Let’s take a deeper look into the facets of Del Bel Belluz’ game:
There’s a lot of aspects to Del Bel Belluz’ game which are extremely close to being ready for the professional game, however right now, skating isn’t one. Luckily, it seems to be more of a mechanical issue rather than an issue of skill or talent.
While watching Del Bel Belluz both on tape and in person, it’s noticeable that his skating stride seems to be stiff, upright, and relatively choppy and short. With a shorter, more vertical stride, it makes it hard to consistently beat defenders with speed due to the excess amount of energy and strides needed to work around them. This trait won’t hinder Del Bel Belluz too much at the OHL level, but as he progresses through his career, he will most likely look to gain a little more flexion in his ankles and knees, as well as work on lengthening his stride to fully maximize his potential of working around defenders.
In the clip above, Del Bel Belluz demonstrates he’s capable of lengthening his stride and being a little more explosive, and it pays off in an end-to-end goal for him. If he can do this on a more consistent basis, it will do wonders for his game.
Another area Del Bel Belluz seems to struggle a little bit with is his top-end speed. In watching both film of his and catching multiple live games of his, it’s noticeable that he doesn’t seem to have that extra gear to shift into when in transition or if presented with an odd-man rush opportunity. To simplify, his line usually icing James Hardie and Ty Collins generates quite a bit of offense and odd-man rushes. When Del Bel Belluz is carrying the puck through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone, he’s more apt to pump the brakes and look for a teammate to pass to, as opposed to turning on the jets and beating an opponent with his speed. While that’s not a bad decision to make, he could diversify his game in all areas of the ice by working on his explosiveness and top-end speed, to make himself even more dynamic.
If Del Bel Belluz is looking to become the top 9 forward with incredible offensive skill in the NHL like he’s projecting to be, he’ll need to address the kinks in his skating mechanics, as they could potentially hold him back from being as effective of a player as his skillset allows him to be. Thankfully, the issues mentioned above are certainly fixable, and there’s little doubt in my mind that Del Bel Belluz can shore them up rather quickly.
Del Bel Belluz absolutely thrives in the offensive zone. His exponential improvement over his rookie season in the OHL has been an absolute joy to follow. He has played much of this season with veteran sniper James Hardie, and the two have formed quite the offensive threat for the Steelheads.
There are many aspects to his offensive game that makes him dangerous with the puck on his stick. Not only can he pick the smallest windows on goal to exploit with above average success, but he’s also arguably an even better puck distributor. There are not many passes which Del Bel Belluz won’t attempt to make and is often successful at them. He can enter the offensive zone with pace and hit a teammate breaking towards the net, or he can cross the blue-line, wait for his line-mates to set up, and deliver a clean pass on the tape.
As mentioned above, Del Bel Belluz has one lethal shot. He’s not afraid to shoot from distance and absurd angles and has been able to pull off some ridiculous goals. However, there are moments in the offensive zone where he is overly passive, and opts to dish the puck off to a teammate rather than utilize his shot. With his ability to pick corners from tight angles little space, he may find even more offensive success taking a shot on net as opposed to passing. Whether it’s chalked up to feeling his teammate has a better angle on net, confidence, or another factor, Del Bel Belluz could really benefit by putting his wrist shot to work more often.
In the clip above, Del Bel Belluz is able to recover a failed pass attempt, pivot, and rush towards the net. He spots the short side top corner slightly open, and roofs it for the goal. His wrist shot is so powerful and accurate most of the time, and it’s reasonable to think his goal total would increase if he chose to shoot the puck more often.
One aspect of his game that is due for some credit, is how excellent of a forechecker he is. Del Bel Belluz can put a large amount of pressure on defenders, forcing them to make turnovers in the defensive zone multiple times per game. More forced turnovers by the opponent certainly leads to more chances offensively for him and his line-mates, and with such skill on the ice for the Steelheads, can result in a high danger chance or even a goal.
A few little things that make a big difference when it comes to being a force offensively, is his ability to be a real pain to defend against. When opponents are retrieving a puck from the corner and looking to break out of their zone, Del Bel Belluz leaves them little time and space to work with. This makes defenders rush, and this coupled with his active stick which allows him to block passing lanes can frustrate even the most stable player. Del Bel Belluz can also tie up the opposing centerman on the draw if he’s lost it, allowing for teammates to attempt retrieving the puck. It’s a minute thing, but it could pay dividends at the next level, as face-offs become harder and harder to win.
When you look back on Del Bel Belluz’ rookie season in the OHL (2019-20), it was clear he needed to add quite a bit of size in order to make his presence truly felt on ice. So far this season, he’s done just that. When drafted in 2019, he was 5’11” and 155 lbs. Playing against much older and much more physically developed players, he struggled a little bit to find his footing. However, he’s made his presence known to just about everyone in Ontario in his draft-eligible year.
Del Bel Belluz has really improved a lot on his defensive game over his OHL career, as he’s now trusted in all situations, especially on the penalty kill. Steelheads coach James Richmond clearly relies on him, and as of April 10th, he’s seeing just under 2 minutes of PK time per game. The same can be said of the power-play, as he’s usually found somewhere between the top of the hashmarks and the blue-line, ready to make a play.
His ability to utilize his active stick as well as sacrificing his body to block shots and disrupt passing lanes is a trait which will bode well for him wherever he goes. There are not many teams out there in all leagues who wouldn’t have use for a player like that. In a game against Hamilton earlier this season, Del Bel Belluz was on the penalty kill late in the third period, while up three goals in the game, still laying down to block shots.
Positionally, Del Bel Belluz is quite sound, often being able to assist his defensemen when under pressure in the defensive zone. He’s able to cover for them when they make rushes up the ice and is regularly the first forward back-checking to defend the counterattack. When attempting to win the puck back along the boards, he can use his new-found size to aid in muscling attackers off the puck, with a decent success rate. He may look to work on his balance a little bit though, as he can be knocked off it at times.
Del Bel Belluz sometimes finds himself in situations where he looks to pass although he has a much better attempt to shoot. He may look to simplify things in the offensive zone as well as the neutral zone when it comes to creating chances.
Del Bel Belluz would also benefit quite a bit by focusing on his game-by-game consistency. There’s been times throughout this season where he’s looked terrific for a stretch, but soon after may go on a little bit of a slump where he may not be as engaged as games previous. While it could be a myriad of factors leading to this, Del Bel Belluz may look to work on this as he progresses.
Lastly, as mentioned above, Del Bel Belluz may look to improve on his skating mechanics as he progresses to the next level. The lost 2020-21 season took a toll on all draft eligible players, by not being able to develop themselves during actual game scenarios. Del Bel Belluz is no exception to this. However, fixing a few kinks with his mechanics is something a lot of players with his talents have been able to correct and carry on their development. I have all the faith in the world he’ll be able to work on this over the next couple of seasons and develop into a 2022 NHL Draft steal.
Luca Del Bel Belluz is one of the more intriguing prospects slated to go in the top 100 selections at this summer’s NHL Draft in Montreal. There’s just so many aspects of his overall game that are incredibly talented. He’s been viewed up and down many scouts ranking lists, finding himself anywhere from a late first round pick, to an early third round pick.
Personally, I think there’s a lot to love about his game. First, offensively he is one of the most talented passers and stick-handlers in the entire draft. His ability to take on multiple opponents alone when his teammates are changing and often come out successfully with the puck is impressive.
Arguably one of my favourite clips of his, Del Bel Belluz picks up the puck in the corner and works his way to the right circle. He absolutely walks Shane Wright, eludes Matthew Soto, and puts a beautiful pass on the tape of Evan Brand for the first goal of the game. Del Bel Belluz’ hockey IQ is on full display there, as he’s able to turn a loose puck from the corner into a highlight reel play, solely based off how well he’s able to think the game, and execute.
Not only that, but he’s able to create a fair amount of time and space in the offensive zone several times per game by eluding the defender with a beautiful deke. This trait allows him to put the other highly regarded aspects of his offensive game to work, by shooting or passing to a teammate for a chance on net.
Defensively, it’s a thing of beauty to see the progress he’s made in such a short time being able to play in all situations and be relied upon to be as effective in the defensive zone as he is in the offensive zone. It’s evident he’s working on becoming a 200ft player as he’s able to get up the ice to attack and back-check to defend at the same rate of speed and urgency.
It’s hard to pinpoint just exactly where Del Bel Belluz will be selected when the NHL Draft rolls around, but it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see a team with multiple first round picks take a swing at him with their later selection(s). Also, if there’s a specific team out there without multiple first round selections, it’s just as likely to see him be selected within the first half of the second round.
April 16, 2022
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Paul Zuk. If you would like to follow Paul on Twitter, his handle is @paulzuk_81.
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