Jet Set

Connor Hellebuyck Not Satisfied With Record-Setting Season

Connor Hellebuyck set the mark for the most wins by an American goaltender, was a Vezina Trophy finalist and took the Winnipeg Jets to within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals. And there's still more work to be done.

Even with a new six-year, $37 million contract under his belt, the Commerce Township, Mich., native is not ready to rest on his laurels.

"I've absolutely had a moment where I was proud of what I did, but in the next moment I knew I needed to work twice as hard because I want to be back there," Hellebuyck said earlier this summer.

That is certainly good news for Jets fans who have embraced Hellebuyck as a hometown hero. In only his third NHL season, the 25-year-old has quickly catapulted into the conversation as one of the league's top netminders and is now being paid as one.

"This is exciting for many reasons but mainly because I love it here and I want to be a part of this team," Hellebuyck said of his new deal that will keep him in Manitoba for the foreseeable future. "We did a lot of great things last year. We built a huge foundation that we're going to rely on for a long time to come."

That foundation includes a talented nucleus of American stars, including team captain Blake Wheeler, Jacob Trouba, Dustin Byfuglien and Kyle Connor.

And backstopping it all is the man who broke Tom Barrasso's mark with 44 victories in the regular season. While he deflects the praise toward his teammates, Hellebuyck takes pride in knowing he's doing everything he can to get the most out of his 6-foot-4 frame.

"It means the belief in myself is true. That it's real. It shows that my work ethic is right and that everything I was doing is right," Hellebuyck said of the postseason accolades that saw him finish second to Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators in the Vezina voting. 

"Now that we went through this entire season I saw myself continue to improve. Now I have to take those details and solidify them and make them part of my every day routine. I also have to take the foundation I built and kind of grow that." 

Hellebuyck has carried that work ethic with him on every step of his hockey journey, from his home state of Michigan to Texas, where he played for the Odessa Jackalopes of the North American Hockey League, and on to Lowell, Mass., where he played two seasons at the University of Massachusetts.

"When I went to college I got a lot stronger and built up my body right. Not only that but I had a great goalie coach there, Cam Ellsworth, and we really worked on some things that I still carry to this day," Hellebuyck said. "Every place that I've been to has added a piece here and a piece there of the whole puzzle."

That puzzle began to take shape at the 2015 IIHF World Championship when Hellebuyck turned heads with a 7-1 record and 1.37 goals-against average in helping the United States take home the bronze medal.

"I'm very proud of it. If we would have left with nothing, we would have all been disappointed. To end the tournament on a win is another great feeling," said Hellebuyck, who shutout the Czech Republic in the final game and was named to the tournament all-star team. "You go into the summer feeling like a winner."

It's a feeling he'd like to replicate with the Jets. Some of his teammates said that coming so close left a bitter taste in their mouths heading into the offseason, but Hellebuyck views it as a launching pad heading into this season.

"We did a lot of great things last year. We built a huge foundation that we're going to rely on in the future," he said. "Being able to see all that now, I'm very happy with the way things went."

 

Issue: 
2018-10

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