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Kieffer Bellows, son of former North Stars forward Brian Bellows, is mapping his own path to the NHL

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- While Kieffer Bellows was growing up in Edina, his parents never had to worry where their hockey-star son was.Invariably, any question about Kieffer's whereabouts was solved with a trip to the basement, where Kieffer and his form...

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Lakeville North junior defenseman Jack Sadek breaks up the rush from Edina sophomore forward Kieffer Bellows in the 2014 Minnesota Boys Hockey State Tournament Class AA Championship game at the Xcel Energy Center. (Pioneer Press file photo)

BUFFALO, N.Y. - While Kieffer Bellows was growing up in Edina, his parents never had to worry where their hockey-star son was.

Invariably, any question about Kieffer’s whereabouts was solved with a trip to the basement, where Kieffer and his former North Stars father, Brian, set up an indoor hockey shooting range complete with a fortified net after Kieffer tore through the first few fabrics.

“If anyone was looking for me,” Kieffer said, “they knew I’d be down there.”

Countless hours perfecting his shot led Kieffer to star at Edina High School as a sophomore before packing up for the United States Hockey League his junior year, and then the U.S. Development Program last season, where he set goal-scoring records that could help make him the highest-drafted Minnesota-bred hockey player in recent years.

Bellows, one of two Minnesotans expected to be taken in the NHL draft Friday, will likely be chosen in the middle of the first round. He has a chance to become the highest-drafted Minnesotan since Cretin-Derham Hall graduate Ryan McDonagh was taken 12th overall in 2007.

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If Bellows is still on the board when the Wild draft at No. 15, Minnesota might have a hard time passing on a forward with a natural goal-scoring ability few of their prospects can match.

“You can only describe him as one thing - he’s a goal scorer,” said Brent Flahr, the Wild’s assistant GM who oversees the team’s draft. “He’s always been a goal scorer, and he doesn’t hide it. He’s a pretty focused kid. He’s driven, and he can score a lot of goals. I think he has rounded out his game this year and worked on his skating since playing at Edina High School. He can probably play pro sooner rather than later.”

Only three players have scored more with the U.S. Development Program than the 50 goals Bellows netted this season - reigning NHL MVP Patrick Kane, reigning Stanley Cup champion Phil Kessel and Auston Matthews, the 18-year-old the Toronto Maple Leafs are expected to draft first overall Friday.

“It’s a real honor to see my name up there with those guys,” said Bellows, 18. “It goes to show that with all of my hard work shooting pucks in the basement and all that off-ice training has really done something.”

Bellows’ father, whom the North Stars drafted No. 2 overall in 1982, played a decade with the North Stars before seven additional seasons in the NHL.

But even if Kieffer is drafted by Minnesota on Friday - like Brian was, albeit by a different franchise - Brian said he’s not worried about Kieffer creating his own career.

“I look at it like he wouldn’t be following in my footsteps,” Brian said. “He’s creating his own destiny. That’s the way I’ve always felt. If he gets to play in Minnesota, it would be wonderful. But it would be because of everything he’s done. Even he’ll tell you that he may have the same name and jersey, but he’s created his own path. That’s very important. He doesn’t expect anything because of his name; he’s got to go out and work for it. But he would be thrilled. To have the chance to play for the Wild would be great.”

The biggest difference between father and son? Home country.

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Brian represented Team Canada in three World Championships, donning the sweater of his home country after he was raised in Ontario.

When it was time for Kieffer to pick between the U.S. and Canada, though, Brian said it wasn’t a hard decision.

“I’m not one of those parents that grew up in Canada and thinks my son should then play for Canada,” Brian said. “He was developed here in the United States, and our family was very proud. It was neat to see him wear the jersey. He was very proud to wear it.”

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