Editor’s note: Vegas finally has a roster. It’s time to get excited. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be introducing you to these new Golden Knights players.
From the Philadelphia Flyers, the Vegas Golden Knights selected 32-year-old forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare in the expansion draft.
Bellemare, who was born and raised in France, had quite a unique road to the NHL. As you can imagine, hockey is not popular in France, so he faced an uphill battle to get to where he is now.
His hockey career began in the Ligue Magnus, France’s highest level of men’s hockey. To get more international exposure, he relocated to Sweden and played in the Swedish Elite League, one of the top leagues in the world. With the SHL’s Skellefteå AIK, Bellemare adjusted well to the competition, scoring 64 goals in five seasons. That got the Flyers’ attention.
Philadelphia signed him to a one-year contract prior to the 2014-15 season, where he played in 81 games, scored six goals and became a stable presence on the team’s penalty-killing unit as a 29-year-old rookie. The Flyers signed him to a contract extension later that season and regularly used him specifically for that role.
Bellemare, who was named one of the Flyers’ alternate captains last season, is exactly what a general manager looks for in a hockey player — tough, gritty, works hard and loves the game. He fits that criteria, so much so that Philly gave him another two-year extension in March.
After all, anyone who one-punches Bobby Farnham is clearly a winner.
Bellemare just clocked Farnham. pic.twitter.com/M4vv02rkgx— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) January 21, 2015
Unfortunately, though, grit, toughness and a hard-working attitude doesn’t always translate to on-ice results.
Of the 262 forwards to play at least 750 minutes last year, Bellemare ranked No. 261 in even-strength point production, averaging 0.38 points-per-60. And despite the fact that killing penalties is Bellemare’s strong suit, the Flyers’ PK percentage ranked just 21st in the league. At best, Bellemare is an average fourth-liner with above average potential.
There is definitely a place for a guy like Bellemare on this team in terms of leadership. While he never was (and likely never will be) much of a scorer, Bellemare was beloved in Philadelphia’s locker room. He was the Flyers’ Masterton Trophy nominee last year, given to the player "who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey."
Bellemare is not a flashy player, which can be frustrating at times. But he is a phenomenal teammate, leader and person and could be an early candidate to wear a letter on his chest in Vegas’ inaugural season.