His hometown is listed as Brampton, Ont., but he was born in St. John’s, so while Zach Bell’s assignment to the St. John’s IceCaps earlier this week might not truly amount to a homecoming, it does mean the young defenceman will be coming full circle.
The 20-year-old, whose biological father is one-time St. John’s Maple Leafs defenceman Bruce Bell, was the first player assigned to the sent back to their American Hockey League’s IceCaps as the parent Winnipeg Jets made their first cuts out of training camp on Monday, reassigning 10 players. But Zach Bell, brought in by the Jets on a tryout, is the only one of the 10 who still has a chance to start the season in the pro ranks; the others were all returned to their major junior clubs.
The six-foot-two, 215-pound Bell could be headed back to junior, too, as the OHL’s North Bay Battalion have been saving an overage spot for him. However, he looks at least to be part of what is shaping up to be a competitive IceCaps’ training camp, which begins next week in St. John’s. Monday’s cuts still left 47 players in Winnipeg’s camp, all of them of pro age except for 2013 first-round pick Josh Morrissey. That means there could be nearly two dozen players following Bell from Winnipeg to St. John’s, where they will join a number of AHL-contracted players who weren’t at the Jets’ camp, plus other tryouts.
Bell played the last four years with the Battalion, the first three of those in Brampton before the franchise shifted to North Bay. Last season, he had nine goals, 18 assists and 50 penalty minutes.
Known as a big hitter, Bell was never drafted by an NHL team, but did attend the rookie training camp of the San Jose Sharks a couple of years ago.
Bruce Bell, played one season (1991-92) with the AHL Leafs and spent the rest of his career in the minors and in Europe. A third-round draft pick of the Quebec Nordiques in 1983, he appeared in over 200 NHL games with the Nordiques, St. Louis Blues, New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers. He had been a member of the NHL’s all-rookie team in 1985 after scoring six goals, adding 31 assists and registering a plus-31 rating with Quebec. .... Zach Bell’s stepfather, Phil Miaskowski, also played minor pro hockey ... Goaltender Eric Comrie, defencemen Jan Kostalek, forwards Alex Blomqvist, Mitchell Theoret, Jimmy Lodge, Ryan Olsen, Lukas Sutter and Scott Kosmachuk were the players returned by the Jets to their junior teams. All, except for Theoret and Blomqvist, were Winnipeg draft picks ... Sutter, a second-round draft pick in 2012 was eligible to turn pro this season, but has not been signed by the Jets and will head to the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels, where he will play as an overager for head coach Brent Sutter, his uncle. Sutter played for the Saskatoon Blades last season ... The IceCaps haven’t released their training-camp roster yet, but look for a couple of experienced AHLers — defenceman Kris Fredheim and forward Maxime Legault to be part of the mix. Fredheim had been mostly with the Houston Aeros, the Minnesota Wild’s farm team, the last three seasons, but did get into three NHL games with the Wild in 2011-12. Legault, a right-winger, spent three years in the Buffalo Sabres’ system, playing with Sabres’ AHL affiliates in Portland and Rochester