Konrad Belcourt doesn’t hide the fact he would prefer considerably more ice time in his rookie season with the Kelowna Rockets.
On the other hand, the 16-year-old defenceman from Sherwood Park, AB, is grateful to be part of the WHL team’s blueprint for the future.
Heading into Tuesday’s action, Belcourt had seen action in 16 games with the Rockets this season, logging an average of five to eight minutes per night.
The greenest and youngest member of the defensive corps, assistant coach Kris Mallette said the Rockets are being mindful not try and force Belcourt’s development, particularly at what is a vulnerable stage of a player’s career.
“Our job is to develop him the best way we can, but at the same time we have to protect him by not putting him into too many situations that will lower his confidence,” Mallette said of Belcourt. “It’s a huge learning curve at this stage, so we want him to be as positive and confident as possible.
“Given the right amount of time, we think he can develop into a player for us.”
A fourth-round bantam pick of the Rockets in 2015, Belcourt landed the club’s seventh blueline spot coming out of training camp.
But Beclourt assures it wasn’t until the last few games that he’s actually been able to relax and take a breath.
“I really wanted to be here for the season and I was never really sure that I was going to be able to say, until probably a couple of weeks ago,” said the 5-foot-11.5, 165-pound Belcourt. “I finally feel like I’m part of their plan and that I’m here for the long haul. It’s exciting…no place I’d rather be.”
Mallette describes Belcourt as “a good skater, a kid who competes and thinks the game pretty well for a young player.”
Much like a sponge, Belcourt said he’s trying to absorb every bit of information possible from the likes of Mallette, head coach and 15-year NHL veteran Jason Smith and pro-drafted teammates like Lucas Johansen and Devante Stephens.
In the meantime, Belcourt said he’ll do everything is his power to improve and remain a part of the Rockets’ long-term plan.
“I know if I stay with it, my time will come,” he said. “This year is a development year for me, I’m happy with that and will take what the coaches give me. I’m living my dream right now, and not every player gets to say that.”
Belcourt and the Rockets (13-10-0) will visit the Victoria Royals Tuesday night.
Kelowna’s next home action is Saturday against the Regina Pats. Face-off at Prospera Place is 7:05 p.m.