Hellebuyck off to incredible start in NHL
December 4, 2015
By Kevin King, Winnipeg Sun
The rapid-reaction diagnosis is that 'the shiny new toy' looks ready for a little more playing time.
And while it's incredibly important – essential actually – that the small sample size is taken into consideration, Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice needs to follow his instincts and give NAHL alum Connor Hellebuyck consecutive starts for the first time in his young career.
Earlier this week, Maurice was doing his job to try and temper the hype machine before it went into overload-mode when he was asked about Hellebuyck's 14-save performance in his NHL debut, comparing the goalie to the shiny new toy that the cat is enamoured with and can't wait to see more of.
And while tossing out enough compliments to continue to show his faith in the young netminder, Maurice was quick to point out that it was only one game (with only five Grade-A scoring chances against, by the Jets count) and that Hellebuyck would get and need to continue to earn his appearances.
Well, following Wednesday's impressive 6-1 triumph over the Toronto Maple Leafs, it's my humble opinion that it's in the best interest of Maurice and the Jets to throw Hellebuyck back in between the pipes on Saturday when the Washington Capitals come to town for a visit.
“He seems real calm, real confident,” said Jets defenceman Tyler Myers. “He's played only two games, but he looks like he's played a lot more.”
Hellebuyck was rock solid in his second start, making 32 saves against a Maple Leafs team that seemed to be finding its way of late.
He didn't have to make a host of highlight-reel stops, but his positioning and rebound control made most of them look easy, showcasing the demeanour that already has some of his teammates taking notice of the young prospect.
“He doesn't get scrambly, he doesn't get rattled very easily and that's a big thing in a young goaltender,” said Jets centre Mark Scheifele. “He's able to not crack under that pressure. He's been awesome for us and we know he's going to be a pretty special goalie.”
This isn't about turning over the keys to the car to Hellebuyck.
But right now, the Jets are in a fight to try and get back above the playoff line.
Hellebuyck has two wins in two starts. He is one of the better and improbable NAHL alumni stories of recent memory.
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Hellebuyck began his junior hockey career with the NAHL with the Odessa Jackalopes 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.