Connor Hellebuyck may describe his style of play as “big and boring,” but the future for this young goaltender should prove to be anything but. In a surprising move on April 5th, he opted to sign an entry level contract with the Winnipeg Jets instead of returning to his current team, the University of Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks, where he was still eligible to play for another two seasons. Given his young age and that he’s still in development, Hellebuyck felt that this move was the next logical step in his career. Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports that Hellebuyck stated:
“What finally made my decision was that I really gave it some thought about my career and where my development is going to be, compared to a year here and a year in pro hockey. For my development, I feel I have to go to the next level to take the next step.”
The three year, two way contract valued at $925,000 will likely be one of many contracts made between this talented 20 year old and the Winnipeg Jets in the upcoming years as he develops into an NHL goalie. Though he is young, there are many reasons to be excited about this addition to the already thick goaltender roster in the Jets organization.
What You Should Know About Hellebuyck
As stated, Hellebuyck is a 20 year old goaltender who played his previous season with the University of Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks. His most recent season of River Hawks hockey saw him play in 29 games and earn a 18-9-2 record, 1.79 goals against average and a 0.941 save percentage. In addition to this, Hellebuyck has been the recipient of many accolades, which is exciting for the Jets organization. Lowell Sun correspondent Shawn Hutcheon notes that during the current season with the River Hawks, Hellebuyck was named Hockey East Goaltender of the Year and HE Tournament Most Valuable Player in addition to being named to the NCAA Northeast Regional All-Tournament team.
Hellebuyck was drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 draft by the Jets and much talk as of late has been of his remarkable talent.
Where does Hellebuyck fit in?
Another point of interest in this signing is whether or not there is room for Hellebuyck within the Jets organization. The signing of this player somewhat indicates a potential for change within the Jets roster as far as their goaltending goes. It is important to note that as of writing the Winnipeg Jets have a roster containing 3 goalies (Pavelec, Montoya and Hutchinson) and the Ice Caps also have a roster than contains 3 goalies (Comrie, Pasquale, and Beskorowany), not including Hellebuyck who will join the team later this month. While this will change once Pasquale returns from injury and the Jets figure out where they would like to place Hutchinson, they are currently not lacking in this area by any means. Of the many items the Jets management needs to figure out during this offseason, the goaltending situation is at the top of the list.
Hellebuyck knows that he will have to develop and fine tune his skills at the NHL level of play before stepping into a starting role, and is accepting of the same. The Winnipeg Sun reports:
“My next step is to go work as hard as I can and earn my ranks,” said Hellebuyck. “I know I’m not given anything or promised anything. I’m just going there to give everything I have.”
While it may have been a surprise to see Hellebuyck sign a contract when most assumed he would stay to finish out his eligibility with the River Hawks before making the move to the NHL, it is not an unwelcome one. His addition to the organization speaks favorably towards to potential for a much needed change among the roster and though the Jets organization may seem packed with goalies, there’s always room for one as talented and young as Hellebuyck.
Breanne provides a light hearted look at the sport we all love at THW’s The Off Side and is an editor at SB Nation’s Arctic Ice Hockey. Follow her on twitter @bbmellen.