MISSISSAUGA, Ontario — While they were only able to muster a single win in preseason play, the Mississauga Steelheads nonetheless have good reason to feel optimistic about the fast-approaching regular season. While they are generally a more inexperienced club, the blue-and-white have some young players who shone this preseason with the hope that they will be solid assets this season. Two of those competitors who have fit that bill thus far have been forwards Luca Del Bel Belluz and Zander Veccia.
For Del Bel Belluz, he will be entering his second season with the Steelheads. In 2019-20, his rookie campaign with the club, the native of Woodbridge, Ontario, scored a goal and added five assists in 58 games before the OHL season was canceled due to COVID-19. It was certainly a decent start for the centerman but after a year-and-a-half of further developing his game, Del Bel Belluz, like countless OHLers, was ready to prove himself when Steelheads’ training camp opened last month. Del Bel Belluz did just that before making the most of his preseason appearances by scoring four goals and two assists in four games.
Steelheads head coach James Richmond shared his thoughts on both players, beginning with Del Bel Belluz.
“Del Bel Belluz has been one of our most productive players through the exhibition series and we are excited to watch him carry his performance over to the regular season,” beamed the Steelheads coach. “Luca [was born in] late ‘03, which means this is his NHL Draft year, so I’m sure he wants to prove to everyone he deserves to be an NHL pick next June.”
As for what Del Bel Belluz needs to get to that point, his coach has a good idea of what needs to be addressed.
“He just needs to focus on playing his strong 200-foot game, get on pucks and win one-on-one battles which he has been doing thus far this season,” Richmond said. “He has put in a lot of work in over the COVID shutdown, and we are confident he will see the benefits this season.”
A native of nearby Woodbridge, Del Bel Belluz is entering just his second season with the Steelheads — one he hopes will be a full one. Still, since he’s only turning 18 in November, the centerman does have the benefit of having time on his side. So, expect him to work hard this coming season but also enjoy himself and have some fun along the way.
In regard to Zander Veccia, he is brand new to the major-junior stage.
Having just turned 17 this past summer, Veccia is chartering into unfamiliar territory. However, if his six games in the preseason are any indication, some would justifiably believe that this was his second go-around in the OHL. After all, in those six games, the native of Ridgetown, Ontario, scored two goals and added three assists — just a shade under a point per game. Not bad for a green rookie. Nevertheless, the right winger will be counted on to help the Steelheads offensively — a responsibility he earned from his new coach.
“We think Zander is going to surprise a few people outside of the Steelheads family,” Richmond said. “He plays the game with speed and physicality which is exactly what coaches and NHL scouts love to see.
With his 5-foot-10, 161-pound stature, Veccia may not look like the most intimidating opponent but remember, as mentioned, he did just turn 17 and has a few years of physical growth ahead of him. Heck, the youngster’s physical game has not been deterred in the least, so don’t expect that to change.
Aside from said physical game and his offensive prowess, though, Veccia possesses arguably one of the most important traits of any athlete.
“His work ethic has been on full display throughout training camp and the exhibition series,” a proud Richmond observed. “We fully expect that to continue which will only improve Zander’s development into one of our key forwards this season.”
After spending the past few seasons in the Alliance U16 Hockey League, Zander Veccia moved on to the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League last season but should be ready for the jump to the major-junior ranks when the Steelheads’ regular season begins this Saturday. After all, if his preseason performance was any indication, Veccia should have a solid rookie campaign.
It may seem redundant but the excitement for the upcoming OHL season warrants further emphasis. After all, unlike previous years, this season’s kick-off point brings with it an added level of eagerness given the global lockdown that has blanketed the sport for the past year-and-a-half. Frankly, it’s perfectly okay to feel extra excited for the new season and for the Steelheads, Luca Del Bel Belluz and Zander Veccia are just two reasons why.
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