During the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in June, the Jets selected Connor Hellebuyck in the fifth round, 130th overall. The goaltender had previously played in the NAHL with the Odessa Jackalopes. Hellebuyck posted a 26-21-5 records with a 2.49 goals against average and a .930 save percentage over 53 games. He was named the NAHL’s Co-Goaltender and Rookie of the Year during the 2011-12 season.
Hellebuyck chose to play college hockey during the 2012-13 season and it now seems like he made the right choice. This season, the Jets’ prospect has been playing for the UMass Lowell River Hawks of the Hockey East Association, a NCAA Division I men’s hockey program. Although he didn’t begin the season as the team’s starting net-minder, he was given the reigns in mid February and he hasn’t given the River Hawks’ head coach Norm Bazin a reason to go elsewhere.
The 22-year-old has lead his River Hawks’ team to their first ever regular season title and Hockey East Championship, as well as a NCAA national tournament No. 1 seed. Along the way he earned Hockey East All-Second Team, All-Rookie Team, Goaltender of the Year, All-Tournament Team and Tournament MVP honors. He has posted a 18-2-0 record with a 1.39 goals against average, .949 save percentage and five shutouts during the regular season and a 4-0 record with a 0.99 GAA and a .966 save percentage. The freshman goaltender was responsible for ending the Boston University Terriers‘ season and the career of Jack Parker, long time head coach of the Terriers. Parker had announced his retirement from the program, earlier in March.
Hellebuyck has proved his ability to play, to both the River Hawks and the Jets. He may not be ready to jump into a starting NHL job today, but he is not far away. Of course his current team would much rather see him stay in college for the next few years, we will see what the Jets have planned for him. Either way the NHL has a future star on the way and the fans in Winnipeg should be watching closely at their prospect during his upcoming tournament run.
The future Jets goaltender and his current River Hawks take on Wisconsin in the Northeast Regional round of the NCAA national tournament on Friday night at 4:30 p.m. Hellebuyck will look to extend his outstanding play and rise up a little further on the Jets’ radar.