Today on Minnesota Wild A-Z we profile Eric Belanger. The 5′ 11″, 185 lb. left handed shot centerman hails from Sherbrooke, Quebec Canada. He was born December 16, 1977. He broke into the NHL in 2000 with the LA Kings after three years in the AHL and four years in Juniors.
Belanger is a veteran of 820 NHL games with 7 teams over 12 seasons. All told he scored 138 goals and 220 assists for 358 total points. He had a career +/- rating of -24 and accumulated 361 career penalty minutes. In the post season Belanger played 41 Stanley Cup playoff games for five teams, scoring a total of 2 goals and 5 assists.
Eric Belanger‘s hockey career began in the QMJHL with the Beauport Harfangs in 1994. He spent two and a half seasons with Harfangs appearing, in 161 games, scoring 60 goals and adding 113 assists. Belanger totaled just 73 minutes in penalties over that time. He spent his final 31 games in juniors with Rimouski Oceanic where he totaled 26 goals, 41 assists and 36 PIMS. After his second season with Beauport he was drafted in the 4th round, 95th overall, by the Los Angeles Kings.
For the 1997-98 season Eric Belanger joined the Fredericton Canadiens in the AHL. In his first year as a pro he scored 17 goals to go with 34 assists for 51 points over the course of 56 games. His near point a game pace was getting him noticed by management and coaches with the LA Kings.
The 1998-99 season saw Eric still with the Kings organization but a different AHL affiliate. This season he was a member of the Springfield Falcons. He saw action in just 33 games scoring 8 goals, adding 18 assists and was whistled for just 10 penalty minutes. That season he also played a single game for the King’s IHL affiliate the Long Beach Ice Dogs.
The 1999-2000 season would be Eric Belanger’s last as a full time AHL player. The Kings had changed AHL affiliations once again and this year it was the Lowell Lock Monsters. Belanger played 65 games and totaled 15 goals added 25 helpers for 40 points. He once again played a clean game that saw him in the sin bin for just 20 minutes. That’s quite an accomplishment in the rough and tumble AHL.
The start of the 2000-01 season saw Eric Belanger make the Kings opening night roster. October 6, 2000 the Kings beat the Washington Capitals 4-1. Blenager had a monster night as a rookie in his first NHL game. He scored his first NHL goal and added two assists for a three point night and a +3 rating in 12:09 of ice time. It was quite a night for the 22 year old rookie.
Belanger would go on to play a total of 62 games that season. He would total 9 goals and 12 assists for 21 points. While he only scored 7 more goals after his opening night pair he did have a season +/- rating of +14. He penalty minute total was also low with just 16 minutes over those 62 contests.
Eric would spend the first 5 season of his NHL career with the Kings playing a total of 323 games scoring 150 total points (63g, 887a). On September 29, 2006 he was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes along with Tim Gleason in exchange for Oleg Tverdovsky and Jack Johnson. Belanger would spend less than one season as a Hurricane before being traded twice in two days in February 2007
After 55 games with Carolina Eric Belanger was traded to the Nashville Predators for Josef Vasicek. Just a day later Belanger was traded again, this time from Nashville to the Atlanta Thrashers for Vitaly Vishnevsky. Eric would spend the remainder of the season with Atlanta before entering the free agent market. During the 2006-07 season he totaled 17 goals, 18 assists for 35 points over 80 games. That’s about an average year of point production for the now veteran center.
The Minnesota Wild signed Belanger to a 3 year deal for the 2007-08 through 2009-10 seasons. Belanger scored 13 goals and added 24 assists as the Wild won their first Division Title in team history. Minnesota would bow out in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs losing in 6 games to the Colorado Avalanche.
Eric Belanger would remain in Minnesota for the entire 2008-09 season and most of 2009-10. In each season he would again score 13 goals. His assist totals would drop by one assist each season from 24 to 23 to 22. Some 60 games into the 2009-10 season Belanger would again be traded. This time to the Washington Capitals in exchange for a 2nd round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. The Wild would use that pick to select Johan Larsson.
Belanger finished the season with the Capitals appearing in 17 games to finish the regular season and 7 games in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Capitals fell to the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in that series.
The start of the 2010-11 season found Eric Belanger in a Phoenix Coyotes uniform. He played in all 82 regular season games and one again totaled 13 goals. Belanger’s assist total climbed a bit to 40 for his season in the desert. This would be a one and done situation for Belanger in Phoenix.
Next up for Eric would be a two year stint with the Edmonton Oilers. In 78 games during the 2011-12 the 34 year old totaled just four goals and 12 assists to go with a -13 rating. It was definitely a down year for Belanger’s point production and defensive game. The following season saw him play in just 26 games. He had zero goals and only 3 assists in that span. This would be Eric Belanger’s last season in the NHL.
The final year of Belanger’s contract with the Oilers was bought out. Last season Belanger failed to catch on with a NHL team through training camp and the early part of the season. He then signed on to play for Yekaterinburg Automobilist in the KHL.
That’s it for today’s edition of Minnesota Wild A-Z. Coming up next we take a look at the career of Shawn Belle.