NAHL, Odessa alum Hellebuyck gets call to NHL
April 10, 2015
By Joey Battaino, Odessa Jackalopes
Friday, April 10, 2015 will be a day that goes down in NAHL and Odessa Jackalopes lore. On this day, the first Jackalopes graduate has taken the ultimate step to compete in the NHL. Friday afternoon, St. John’s IceCaps goaltender Connor Hellebuyck was recalled by the Winnipeg Jets, who, Thursday night, clinched a playoff berth on for only the second time in franchise history, and first since they moved to Winnipeg from Atlanta.
Hellebuyck, 21, began his junior hockey career with the Jacks in 2011-12. The Commerce, MI native won 26 of the Jackalopes 27 overall wins that season, and propelled the Jacks to a playoff berth in their first season in the NAHL. Hellebuyck raked in the hardware that year as well. Hellebuyck was named Goaltender of the Year, Rookie of the Year, All-NAHL First Team, All-South Division Team, and NAHL All-Rookie Team during that storybook season. Hellebuyck was also the Jackalopes first ever Division I college commit, signing his letter of intent to play at UMass-Lowell.
In 2012-13 during his freshman season at Lowell, Hellebuyck led his team all the way to a Frozen Four appearance before falling to Yale in the National Semifinals. In his freshman season, Hellebuyck set UMass-Lowell single-season records in both save percentage (.952) and goals against average (1.37).
In his sophomore season in 2013-14, Hellebuyck was the inaugural Mike Richter Award winner as the top goaltender in college hockey. He was also named to the All-Hockey East First Team, and the Hockey East All-Tournament Team. Hellebuyck was named an AHCA All-American in his second season with the RiverHawks.
In the spring of 2014, Hellebuyck decided to forgo his final two seasons at UMass-Lowell and signed a three-year entry-level contract with the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets.
Hellebuyck shined in his rookie season in St. John’s, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets, winning AHL Player of the Week on November 23rd after making 65 saves in two games vs. Lehigh Valley (2-1 OT W) and Hershey (1-0 W). In 58 games this season with the IceCaps, Hellebuyck was 28-22-1 with a 2.58 goals against average and a .921 save percentage.
Hellebuyck will continue to make his mark in the storied history of the Winnipeg Jets franchise Saturday when they battle the Calgary Flames in Winnipeg. The puck drops at 2:00pm CST.