Photo Credit: Bruce Fedyck/USA TODAY Sports
The Winnipeg Jets have recalled goaltender Connor Hellebuyck from the Manitoba Moose, the organization announced on Sunday.
It’s not a surprising roster maneuver, as usual Jets starter Ondrej Pavelec sustained an apparent injury when he was violently run by Arizona Coyotes forward Shane Doan on Saturday night. Pavelec reportedly left the MTS centre on crutches.
Though Hellebuyck is untested at the NHL level, it will be extremely interesting to see what he can do as part of a goalie tandem with Michael Hutchinson.
Hellebuyck, 22, is one of hockey’s most promising young puck stoppers. In 10 games with the Moose this season, Hellebuyck has managed an auspicious .927 save percentage, bringing his career AHL save percentage to .921 in 58 AHL contests.
The young netminder, a fifth-round draft pick in 2012, has the large frame and athleticism of a future NHL starter and cemented his status as one of the best goaltenders outside the NHL with a dazzling performance at the 2015 World Championships for Team USA.
For an everyday NHL starting goaltender, Pavelec has been a consistent sub-average performer. This season he’s managed just a .906 save percentage, well off of the current NHL average of .915.
Pavelec has one year remaining after this one on his current contract. Though you never like to see a guy get hurt, his injury provides the Jets with an opportunity to, perhaps, see what their two young netminders are capable of.
To suggest that Hellebuyck may be capable of replacing Pavelec’s output immediately is not, in my view, an unreasonable expectation.
In terms of the impact of Hellebuyck’s recall on the rest of the organization, one immediate result is that the club will lean on 26-year-old former University of Manitoba goaltender Joe Caliguiri to backup Eric Comrie with the Moose on Sunday:
Joe Caligiuri. Former U of Manitoba goalie will backup Eric Comrie today w/ the Moose as Connor Hellebuyck has been recalled to the #NHLJets
— Jeff Hamilton (@jeffkhamilton) November 22, 2015
Caligiuri never managed a save percentage north of .910 in his CIS career, and in a league like the AHL – with near constant back-to-back games, and occasional series of back-to-back-to-back contests – having a capable backup is crucial.
If Pavelec’s injury keeps him out of action for an extended period, we might reasonably expect the Jets to sign another veteran professional-level goaltender to caddy for Comrie and the Moose.