The back-end for the Philadelphia Flyers drew a lot of criticism heading into the 2023-24 season but rightfully so. On paper it didn’t look like a serviceable bunch when you factored in the nightmarish 2022-23 season for Travis Sanheim being your anchor and then a mish-mash with Nick Seeler, Marc Staal, Sean Walker, and Victor Mete. The youngsters in Ronnie Attard, Emil Andrae, and Egor Zamula were going to be given ample opportunities to win a spot, but overall it wasn’t a fancy bunch.
A month into the new season and we’ve been pleasantly surprised with a trio of defensemen who needed to show up for one reason or another. Sanheim, Walker, and Louie Belpedio have exceeded expectations but it’s Belpedio’s recent stretch that deserves a little more praise than he’s currently being given.
Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota Wild, Belpedio would then spend the next 4 seasons with Miami University (Ohio) where he recorded 25 goals and 83 points in 135 games, including 9 goals and 30 points in 37 games in 2017-18 before making the leap to professional hockey with the Wild.
In 10 games with the Iowa Wild of the AHL, he recorded 2 assists and in just 1 game with the Minnesota Wild he had a great debut with 2 assists and a plus-1 rating. The following season he played 70 games in Iowa where he recorded 21 points and suited up in just 2 games for the big club. In 2019-20, it was nearly the same song and dance as he remained in the minors where he recorded 20 points in 62 games.
In the shortened 2020-21 season he wound up playing 1 game for the Wild and another 23 for Iowa before walking as a free agent at the end of the year and signing a two-way contract with the Montreal Canadiens. It was another AHL season for the Skokie, Illinois native who scored 11 goals and 30 points in 69 games for the Laval Rocket. Once again, he walked as a free agent and signed a two-way deal with the Flyers in the summer of 2022.
Last season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, he was one of the best defensemen for a club that finally clinched a playoff spot and he played his part with 8 goals and 27 points in 70 games. He was 10th in points overall and only trailed Ronnie Attard’s 32 for the team lead amongst defensemen.
To start the 2023-24 season, Belpedio fell within the depth chart after the Flyers added a few more defensemen in the offseason. He played 5 games for the Phantoms where he recorded 1 assist before finally getting the call to play for the Flyers in what would be his first NHL game since the 2020-21 season – and 5th in total.
With Rasmus Ristolainen and Marc Staal on the mend for the foreseeable future, the Flyers decided to give Belpedio a shot and so far in 9 games he has 2 goals, is a plus-3, 9 shots on goal, 11 blocked shots to 11 hits, 3 takeaways to 2 giveaways, and has averaged 12:47 TOI.
His two standout performances this season were against the Buffalo Sabres on the 3rd of November and against the Los Angeles Kings in their most recent victory on the 11th. Against the Sabres he scored his first career goal, blocked 2 shots, delivered 4 checks, and played 15:08 TOI. Against the Kings he played 13:26 TOI, had 3 hits and 3 blocks, and played a very strong defensive game. He did score the night before against the Anaheim Ducks but he was more noticeable – for good reason – the next night.
The dish by @FarabeeJoel. The finish from Louie Belpedio.
That's just great hockey. 👏 pic.twitter.com/aEFLN5ZBgi
— NHL (@NHL) November 11, 2023
From 2017-18 to 2022-23, Belpedio was only afforded the luxury to dress in 4 NHL games and recorded 2 points along the way. For a rebuilding Flyers club, the 27-year-old has already doubled the amount of games played with 9 as well as matching his point total with 2. Once Ristolainen and Staal return to the lineup – which could be soon as they ditched the no-contact jerseys earlier Wednesday – Belpedio will most likely return back to the Phantoms, but he has made his mark.
A player like Belpedio is making the most of his opportunities this year as Wednesday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes will represent his 10th of the season. This rebuild might be for the young prospects like Tyson Foerster and Bobby Brink, but it also helps guys like Belpedio get the opportunity to play some meaningful hockey.
Victor Mete didn’t last long with the club as Egor Zamula will return to the lineup, but as far as Belpedio’s concerned, his named is firmly stapled on a nightly basis until the reinforcements return.
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