A former OHL Cup finalist (with Adam Fantilli and the Toronto Red Wings), Luca DelBelBelluz has been one of the most improved players in the league this year following last season’s hiatus. He struggled mightily as an OHL rookie, lacking the quickness, strength, and poise to be an impact player. However, LDBB has now upgraded many areas of his game to become one of the OHL’s top centers on an upstart and surprising Mississauga Steelheads team. Improvements made to his strength on the puck and his skating agility have made DelBelBelluz a difficult cover in the offensive zone. Equal parts playmaker and goal scorer, his silky hands are the highlight of his skill package. A late born 2003 born player, there is still work to be done. He needs to improve his quickness and the dynamic qualities of his linear stride. He needs to improve his physical engagement level and become a more consistent defensive presence. However, his skill level and puck poise are undeniable, giving him significant offensive upside at the NHL level.
|Luca Del Bel Belluz||Date of Birth: 2003-11-10|
|Position: C, Shoots: L||H/W: 6'1", 180lbs|
|Stats to Date: (GP-G-A-PTS-PIMS)||Mississauga, OHL (65-30-43-73)|
In a straight line, DelBelBelluz is far from a polished skater. Based on that alone and his ability to generate speed, he would probably grade out as a 45 in this category. He has an awkwardly wide stride at times that prevents him from generating significant power. Both his top speed and his first step quickness will need to improve to be an NHL player. That could include a complete overhaul of his stride mechanics by a skating coach or development team. However, despite these limitations, DelBelBelluz has become one of the top centers in the OHL this season for a surprise Mississauga Steelheads team. While his linear quickness is most definitely lacking, DelBelBelluz’s agility, edgework, and weaving ability has improved significantly from two seasons ago and over the course of the current season. This is particularly true of his ability to generate quickness out of pivots, something that makes him a difficult cover in the offensive end when combined with his size and soft hands. Look no further than DelBelBelluz posting the third best time at the recent Top Prospect’s Game testing for weave agility with the puck (barely beating Shane Wright and David Goyette, two high end skaters). So while DelBelBelluz’s ability to create in transition is inconsistent because of some skating limitations, his ability to breakdown coverage and prolong possession in the offensive end is heightened because of his overall agility, edgework, and ability to blend puck skill with this agility.
This was from two years ago, LDBBs rookie OHL season. Tries to build up speed with a few choppy crossovers then glides into the zone, but fails to create any sort of separation and is neutralized by Sudbury defender Kalle Loponen, who had difficulty defending pace in his OHL year.
This is from recently at the CHL Top Prospect’s Game. You can see that DelBelBelluz’s stride power and extension have not really improved all that much. This is a pretty similar kind of play with a pretty similar result, two years apart.
This is a great clip to show some of DelBelBelluz’s limitations as a skater. Yes, he does gain the offensive zone. However, his choppy strides prevent him from truly creating power and speed here and he is forced to the perimeter. If he could have incorporated linear crossovers here, he would have been able to quickly alter his direction while also picking up speed, perhaps creating a more dangerous entry opportunity.
This play against North Bay was also from two years ago and selected to show that previously, DelBelBelluz’s agility in the offensive zone was nearly non-existent. He was easily pinned down and cornered and had no way to escape pressure.
Fast forward to this year and you can see why his marks for weave agility at the Top Prospect’s Game were so high. His confidence on his edges and his ability to maintain possession through pivots has greatly improved. Even in the last calendar year, I have noticed great improvement in his explosiveness out of pivots or cuts, allowing him to really create separation down low on the powerplay.
Another great example from recently on how DelBelBelluz's skating has improved. Fights through the stick checks to gain the line with control, then explodes out of the pivot to create separation from the 67's players so that he can swing a bullet pass back across the ice for the goal.
Far from a high volume shooter (LDBB is currently fourth in shots on the Steelheads and just outside the Top 50 in the league), DelBelBelluz makes the most of his opportunities because of a dangerous wrist shot. He is especially lethal on the powerplay when operating near the hash marks. Given a little bit of daylight, he can pick corners by using both deception and pinpoint accuracy with his wrister, generating significant velocity with little wind up. This quick release is integral for DelBelBelluz given some of his limitations as a skater. He needs to capitalize quickly on his chances and does so most often. As he improves his quickness and confidence, and starts shooting the puck more, look for DelBelBelluz’s goal scoring numbers to increase further at the OHL level. Equal parts goal scorer and playmaker, his offensive skill set is well rounded.
Great play here by DeBelBelluz showing his escapability in the offensive zone. His speed out of the pivot is not tremendous, but it gave him enough separation to pick the top corner from a difficult angle. He can elevate the puck in a hurry.
Here DelBelBelluz uses his teammate as a decoy on a shorthanded two on one, alters his pace to take the goaltender out of position and then rifles it top corner with the wrist shot. A different kind of goal than the first example, but it still shows how lethal his wrister can be.
This young man can dangle with the best of them. His hands afford him the time and space that he needs to operate given that his feet are not the quickest. This is extremely obvious in transition as DelBelBelluz still manages to be excellent at gaining entry into the offensive zone despite lacking power and grace. He uses his frame well to protect the puck and he can keep it on a string to bide time until a passing or shooting lane develops. His hands are top notch as he rarely misses passes, even in full stride, and has worked hard to limit his turnovers this year despite being a creative playmaker. His ability to blend edgework and balance with soft hands, makes him difficult to pin down in the offensive zone, again something supported by that terrific weave agility time at the Top Prospect’s Game testing. As a passer, DelBelBelluz shows finesse and accuracy, feathering passes through traffic when necessary. He also draws in defenders before dishing off, showing poise and composure with the puck, especially on the powerplay. This really helps to open up lanes for his linemates as multiple defenders collapse to stop LDBB. As mentioned previously, his well rounded offensive skill set makes him an equal parts playmaker and finisher and gives him solid upside as a top six center at the NHL level so long as he is able to improve his footwork further.
Luca’s ability to protect the puck and fight through stick checks is among the best in this draft class. Exhibit A. He escapes the forecheck by putting the defender on his back, then gains the offensive line by using his feet to corral the puck, beats three Ottawa players into the zone and sets up a scoring chance in the slot.
We spoke about DelBelBelluz’s finishing ability being high end because of his elite hands and this is a great example of why. In one motion he corrals the saucer pass and toe drags before quickly elevating the puck over the shoulder of the netminder. And that was done at nearly full speed.
Great hands here from LDBB as he spins off the wall, dekes around a Kingston defender and puts a perfect pass on the tape of Evan Brand for the goal. That Kingston player he turned inside out? None other than Shane Wright.
This is the perfect example of what DelBelBelluz has to offer all in one clip. He fights off the check of Jordan Frasca (one of the OHL’s best defensive forwards) to keep the play alive, falls, gets up, receives the pass and buries it. His combination of size and skill down the middle is going to be so alluring to NHL scouts.
What is generally impressive about DelBelBelluz is that while he is creative and slick with the puck, he is also patient and decisive. He is not a high risk kind of player who consistently turns the puck over trying to make something out of nothing. He takes what the defense gives him. Give him time and space in the slot and he is using his wrist shot to try to score. Send multiple defenders to him, he will find a way to prolong possession long enough to exploit a passing lane to create a scoring chance. He can play with pace (to the best of his abilities) and he can slow the game down. As mentioned, he is a multi-dimensional offensive player. His two-way game is a work in progress. Generally speaking, his anticipation and awareness in the defensive end is sound. He has a good stick. However, his lack of explosiveness and speed does limit his overall effectiveness as a defensive player at times, especially when it comes to recovering on the backcheck. Additionally, DelBelBelluz could stand to be a little more physically assertive in the defensive end if he wants to truly take his two-way game to that next level.
A beautiful stretch pass executed here by DelBelBelluz as he finds James Hardie down the ice for the goal. He supports his defenders well in the defensive zone and circles back to lead the breakout quite often.
Love this play by DelBelBelluz as he shows off his passing touch. He could have easily put a wrister on net from a bad angle, however, instead he opted for the fake shot/pass to Owen Beck at the side of the net for the redirect into the back of the net.
Just a great example of how LDBB supports his defenders in his own zone by taking great angles to pucks and by cutting off offensive progress. He reads this play at the Top Prospect’s Game perfectly by getting ahead of the chip in and swinging it back quickly to his defender to then start the breakout quickly.
DelBelBelluz gets caught puck watching here and doesn’t pick up his assignment on time as he gets all turned around trying to recover. The result is a goal against. He just does not have the quickness or maneuverability to recover sometimes in the defensive end, which means he needs to be consistently dialed in and focused.
As an offensive player, DelBelBelluz’s puck protection skill and ability to fight through contact has to be worth something. He is a difficult player to separate from the puck and he has no qualms about driving hard to the net. Far from a power forward, but he does compete for ice in the offensive zone. Defensively, he completely relies on positioning and stick checking to a fault. As mentioned, the defensive mind is generally good, but without elite quickness, he will need to become a more physically engaged player if he wants to become a high-end two-way center. Too often does he get burned in the neutral zone and defensive end with passive plays. Overall, DelBelBelluz probably projects as a below average physical player at the NHL level. If he could find a way to truly use his size and length to be more tenacious, it would make him all the more dangerous as an overall threat.
Exhibit A. DelBelBelluz has a chance to stop this rush before it even starts, but a passive stick check attempt leads to a clean breakout and eventual goal for Ottawa. If he uses his body to knock the 67’s player off stride, then that rush is neutralized early.
Exhibit B: More passiveness in the neutral zone leads to an eventual North Bay goal. DelBelBelluz does not finish his check in the neutral zone, then misses that same assignment in the defensive end as he fails to tie up Owen Van Steensel at the side of the net on the rebound.
A note on the 20-80 scale used above. We look at five attributes (skating, shooting, puck skills, hockey IQ and physicality) for skaters and six for goalies (athleticism/quickness, compete/temperament, vision/play reading, technique/style, rebound control and puck handling). Each individual attribute is graded along the 20-80 scales, which includes half-grades. The idea is that a projection of 50 in a given attribute meant that our observer believed that the player could get to roughly NHL average at that attribute at maturity.