The Pipeline: A conversation with Luca Del Bel Belluz
Luca Del Bel Belluz didn’t let being off for one season affect his play or his mindset.
The Mississauga Steelheads forward took that time to get bigger and stronger.
“For me in my first season with the Steelheads, I obviously didn’t play that much. I had six points in 58 games. I was only weighing in at 150 (pounds), so I was actually very scrawny,” Del Bel Belluz told Guy Flaming on The Pipeline Show. “For me, the biggest evolution and the biggest change to my game was putting on the weight and getting in the gym. I ended up gaining 35 pounds, so now I’m weighing in at 185.”
The 6-foot-1 forward leads the Steelheads with 61 points (24 goals, 37 assists) in 47 games.
He also tops the OHL among all draft eligible players in scoring.
Del Bel Belluz is No. 49 in FCHockey’s Midseason ranking for the 2022 draft, and is slotted 11th among North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting’s midterm list.
The 18-year-old still has areas in his game that he’d like to improve upon before the end of the season.
“The biggest two things for me are my strength and putting on weight,” he said. “And the second thing is speed. The game is always getting faster and you could never be too fast.”
Guy Flaming: I don’t know what you expected from yourself this year, because nobody in the OHL played last season. The 58 games you played as a rookie you had six points. Now you’re suddenly one of the top scorers in the league. Did you expect this from yourself or to some degree have you almost surprised yourself?
Luca DelBelBelluz: Well, I mean for me, I’m pretty confident, so I’m going to say I did expect it from myself. But it didn’t come easy you know. I had to do a lot of work in the offseason, during the COVID stuff. It wasn’t always the easiest to get ice, but there was a lot going to the gym and doing a lot of extra stuff. I think all that really translated into my game and it helped me to where I am today.
Guy Flaming: How old were you when you first started playing hockey? Did you take to it really young?
Luca Del Bel Belluz: Yeah, my dad was a hockey player growing up. He went to play in Europe and university hockey. As a young kid, I think I was around three-years-old. He had me go on right away, getting me on skates, on the ice. Even in the basement shooting pucks, all that. So he’s kind of been the guy that’s been there by my side the whole time because he loves the game just as much as I do.
Guy Flaming: Nice to have a coach right in the house, though? I imagine as a former player he’s helping you along.
Luca Del Bel Belluz: Yeah. He says the game has slipped away from him a little bit, but he knows what he’s talking about. He’ll tell me what’s going on and what he sees in my game. He’s great. He’s been my role model since day one and it’s going to be like that for a while.
Guy Flaming: Luca, have you always been a forward or did you at a younger age try the blueline or even put the pads on?
Luca Del Bel Belluz: Yeah, I’ve always been a forward. I remember as a young kid, I never told anyone, never told my dad, because he used to be a defenseman. I kinda wanted to try defense, but I was never gonna say anything because forward was just where I was.
Guy Flaming: Tell me your evolution as a player over the last couple of seasons, and not having a season at all last year and yet having this big breakout this season. Compare yourself to when you were a rookie. You said you didn’t get to play a whole lot that first year. Much different story now. So when you look back two years ago, how are you a different player now?
Luca Del Bel Belluz: For me in my first season with the Steelheads, I obviously didn’t play that much. I had six points in 58 games and I was actually a minus-13. The biggest thing for me and Coach (James) Richmond was that if you want to play the big minutes you couldn’t be in the minus. We talked a lot over the quarantine and over COVID and the break and he was like if you want play those minutes, you have to work on your game defensively. And at the time, in my first year, I was only weighing in at 150 (pounds), so I was actually very scrawny. For me, the biggest evolution and the biggest change to my game was putting on the weight and getting in the gym. I ended up gaining 35 pounds, so now I’m weighing in at 185. I think that’s one of the biggest things, taking pride in my defensive game.
Guy Flaming: The draft is something that’s on the horizon for you, not that far away now. Is it something you spend much time thinking about, or are you one of those players who doesn’t like to think about it at all?
Luca Del Bel Belluz: I feel like I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it. It’s definitely on your mind, but you kind of try to keep the noise out of it. Just play your game. You’re on your team cause you know what you can do and you wanna win games, so I think that’s the biggest thing right now.
Guy Flaming: How do you describe yourself as a player?
Luca Del Bel Belluz: I would say I’m a player with a very high hockey IQ. I’m very creative with the puck, able to make plays under pressure. I’m very shifty with the puck. I can make plays that other players don’t see. That’s the biggest thing in my game.
Guy Flaming: Central Scouting rankings have you ranked respectively high, 11th overall in North America. How’s that make you feel when you’re regarded that high?
Luca Del Bel Belluz: Obviously it’s great being ranked No. 11, but the thing that got me there is the way I’ve been playing. I don’t want to get away from that. It’s great, but there’s a long way to go. It’s still very early in the season, a lot of things can happen. The last thing you want is for me to change my game, if I’m some kind of offensive threat that’s not going to care anymore and not care defensively. So I think just sticking to my game is the biggest thing right now.
Guy Flaming: What sort of areas of your game do you think you need to focus on the most before you can get to the next level and have success there?
Luca Del Bel Belluz: The biggest two things for me are my strength and putting on weight. And the second thing is speed. The game is always getting faster and you could never be too fast.
This interview was edited for clarity and content