Stanley Cup Champions, Panthers Pleased With Affiliation

By Andy Kent
Naples Daily News

Florida Everblades forward Vince Bellissimo will carry the freshly anointed title of ECHL Player of the Week onto the ice with him on Wednesday after he scored 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) in four games.

Bellissimo, who missed over a month with an injury to his left ankle, has teamed up with Brad Parsons and rookie Adam Taylor to form the Everblades’ hottest scoring line, and at the age of 24 he is finally catching the attention of the higher ups.

He’s got it going now,” said Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford, who is in town for the National Hockey League General Manager’s meetings being held at The Ritz Carlton Golf Resort in Naples.

Bellissimo leads the team in assists with 28 and is tied with veteran forward Reggie Berg for the scoring lead with 46 points in just 35 games. He also has a plus/minus rating of +12 after going +8 in those four games.

As a line, Bellissimo, Parsons and Taylor scored 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) last week, with Taylor contributing nine points (6 goals, 3 assists) and Parsons adding a goal and five assists.

“Taylor’s been playing really well, the puck’s been going in for him, he’s been working hard driving the net and playing physical,” Bellissimo said. “And Parson’s been playing a smart game, making nice passes so I think the three of us have been clicking, but we’ve got to maintain that for the rest of the season. But I’m thrilled with the honor, it’s pretty cool and I’ll tell my father about it.”

Rutherford has been pleased with the job the Everblades have done developing all of Carolina’s prospects, and he points to the success of forward Chad LaRose at the NHL level and now rookie forward Mike Angelidis and rookie defenseman Brett Carson at the American Hockey League Level with the Albany River Rats.

Angelidis, 21, has scored seven points (3 goals, 4 assists) in 18 games for Albany and Carson, 21, has nine points (1 goal, 8 assists) in 36 games.

“Angelidis has done very well, we’re very happy with his progress,” Rutherford said. “Carson’s been coming along. It takes defensemen longer but we see him progressing, and everything’s going good here with the Everblades.”

Taylor happens to be under contract to the Florida Panthers, and their head coach, Jacques Martin also is the general manager. He stayed over at The Ritz on Monday night after the first day of meetings, jetted up to Tampa Bay for Tuesday night’s game with the Lightning after the morning meetings and then came back for today’s final round.

In addition to Taylor, who has 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) rookie forward David Brine, rookie defensemen Franklin MacDonald and Bret Nasby, rookie goaltender David Shantz and forward Dustin Johner are Panthers prospects. Martin likes the close proximity of the two organizations as well as the Everblades’ track record of developing players, including of his own who made their NHL debuts this season, rookie forward Drew Larman and rookie defenseman Martin Lojek.

“We’re very, very pleased with our affiliation with the Everblades, I really believe that it’s been a good opportunity for some of our kids that maybe aren’t quite ready to play in the AHL to start their career there,” Martin said. “Drew Larman’s a good example where he started there last year, and Martin Lojek’s probably a better example because he spent the whole year there, and this year made Rochester then played a couple of games for us.”