Penguins prospect Jordy Bellerive makes remarkable recovery from burns
A year ago, prospect Jordy Bellerive felt like a nobody as the Pittsburgh Penguins began play in a rookie tournament in Buffalo.
This year, as the team prepares for the tournament again, Bellerive feels like the luckiest man on the ice.
Bellerive is expected to play against prospects from the New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres this weekend three months after suffering severe burns to his hands in a campfire explosion.
“Obviously the expectations weren’t to be here originally,” Bellerive said Thursday, sitting in his locker stall with a black wrap on his injured hand after Penguins prospects practiced in Cranberry before busing to Buffalo for the tournament. “It was supposed to be a year or something like that. To be back this early and playing again, I’m pretty fortunate.”
Bellerive, 19, declined to go into specifics about the accident, calling it a “personal subject” and an “unfortunate event,” but he was candid when discussing his recovery.
When doctors told him there was a small chance his hand would never be back to 100 percent, he was able to dismiss that as medical professionals doing their due diligence by informing him of the worst-case scenario.
When they told him he likely would have to miss an entire year, he cringed.
“That was pretty hard to hear,” Bellerive said. “Anytime they tell you you’re not going to play for a year, that’s pretty gut-wrenching for a young hockey player.”
Bellerive dealt with the disheartening diagnosis by dedicating himself to his rehab.
“Honestly, it was kind of more a mental thing for me,” he said. “I made the decision right away that I needed to get out of (the hospital) as fast as possible, and I started doing all my treatments way ahead of schedule. They said some people are afraid to use their hands after something like that. That’s the first thing I did, using them and getting back to normal shape. I think that helped a lot.”
Bellerive spent two weeks in the hospital then resumed his offseason conditioning program as soon as humanly possible.
“Got in the gym the next day after I was out,” Bellerive said. “Obviously I had to modify things due to my hands and stuff like that, but after that, it got to a steady uphill climb.”
While in the hospital, Bellerive received a morale boost when the Penguins picked defenseman Calen Addison, his junior hockey teammate with Lethbridge of the WHL and good friend, with a second-round pick in the 2018 draft.
Given the circumstances, Addison couldn’t be more thrilled to play alongside Bellerive again this weekend.
“It’s crazy,” Addison said. “To see a guy like that come back that fast is insane, but to me, it’s not surprising at all. He’ll battle through anything.”
A year ago, Bellerive arrived at the rookie tournament as a relative unknown, an undrafted 18-year-old without the size or speed that makes scouts take notice.
He had seven points in three games, including a hat trick against New Jersey, and had an NHL contract in his pocket within a week.
“I came in here and didn’t know anybody, didn’t know anyone in the organization. I was kind of a nobody,” Bellerive said. “I worked as hard as I could, did what the coaches said and it worked out well for myself.”
After a 46-goal season, Bellerive finds himself at the top of the list of Penguins prospects.
In time, the Penguins will figure out whether Bellerive projects as a goal-scoring winger who could play on a line with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin or a third-line center who could play behind them.
For now, though, Bellerive is happy to be playing at all. Most of all, he’s happy the other Lethbridge players injured in the explosion, Ryan Vandervlis and Matt Alfaro, are out of the hospital and on the same road to recovery as he is.
“They’re two of my best friends,” Bellerive said. “They’re doing great. One of them was just released about a week ago. The other guy was out before I was. He’s fine. All of us are looking good. All of us are going to play hockey again.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at email@example.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.