It was a career year for Connor Hellebuyck as he officially took the reins as the number one goalie in Winnipeg. Today’s Pilot’s Logbook looks at the tremendous season that Hellebuyck had and what the future has in store for the young netminder.
#37 – GOALIE
6’4″ / 207 lbs / Age: 25
Current Contract Status: RFA Arbitration Eligible
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PLAYER’S SEASON IN REVIEW
To say the season progressed unexpectedly for Hellebuyck is a massive understatement. Hellebuyck went from a starter in 2016-17 to starting on the bench in 2017-18 yet still managed to get nominated for the Vezina trophy as the league’s best goalie. After an underwhelming season in 2016-17 that saw the Jets use multiple goalies without any success, they decided to address the need in the summer. They brought in Steve Mason who was a capable starting goalie and looking for a fresh start. That fresh start was not what he envisioned when he got lit up by the Leafs and Flames to start the season.
This early trouble for Mason provided a small window for Hellebuyck to step in and win the crease. The idea before the season began was to run a 1A, 1B tandem that would battle for starts throughout the year and push each other to compete. Hellebuyck lived up to his end of the bargain by allowing two or less goals in his first three games and winning them all. When the opportunity shifted back to Mason he faltered again and allowed five goals against the Blue Jackets to fall to 0-3.
From then on it was Hellebuyck manning the crease as he started ten out of the next eleven games. Hellebuyck continued to shine for the rest of the year and never relinquished the starting role. This dependable play prompted much excitement from fans who were amazed at how big of a difference a consistently strong goalie makes.
RT if Connor Hellebuyck makes you happy.
— Arctic Ice Hockey (@arcticicehockey) November 7, 2017
Hellebuyck kept playing well and kept playing a lot as the season progressed. His numbers were consistently great all year long as he posted a a SV% higher than .911 in every single month. In fact, Hellebuyck only had two months where his SV% was below .920 (November and February). Looking at some other detailed numbers proves how consistent Hellebuyck was during the entire year. Hellebuyck had a .921 SV% at home while he had a .927 SV% on the road. He posted a .924 SV% before the All-Star break, compared to a .923 SV% after the All-Star break. As for his SV% against the Eastern Conference and Western Conference, it was .924 and .923 respectively. These numbers highlight how incredibly consistent Hellebuyck was across a variety of competition, months, and cities.
This phenomenal play led Hellebuyck to be nominated for the Vezina trophy against two other elite netminders in Pekka Rinne and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Even though Hellebuyck didn’t come away with the hardware, he placed second in voting and received seven different votes for first place. While Hellebuyck finished second in Vezina voting, he did make it onto the All-Star Second Team. In addition to these accolades he also made history by passing Tom Barasso for wins in a season by an American goaltender with 44.
Close, but no Vezina Trophy for Connor Hellebuyck. The #NHLJets goalie finished 2nd in voting for the NHL's top netminder. He got Top 3 votes from 26 of the league's 31 general managers, including 7 1st-place ballots. #wfp pic.twitter.com/MJiDwYFfqm
— Mike McIntyre (@mikemcintyrewpg) June 21, 2018
The only question left for Hellebuyck after his breakout season was whether or not he could perform in the playoffs. Hellebuyck answered this question by posting a .924 SV% in the first round including two shutouts to finish off the Minnesota Wild. This strong play continued against Nashville where Hellebuyck clearly out-dueled Rinne by finishing with a .929 SV% compared to Rinne’s .900 SV%. It wasn’t until the Jets ran into the Golden Knights that Hellebuyck was finally out-played by his competition. Hellebuyck was at his worst during the Vegas series as he had a .906 SV% and Fleury at the other end seemed to stop everything with ease.
Hellebuyck finished the playoffs slightly off his season total with a .922 SV% and looked strong in the net in each series. He played his usual boring style of game which led to routine saves most of the time. This doesn’t mean Hellebuyck can’t make desperation saves as he made a few highlight-reel stops including this one on Matt Dumba.
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) April 18, 2018
There is no doubt the Hellebuyck is the future of the franchise. With Steve Mason having a tough season this year, he will be relegated to backup next season if the Jets decide to keep him around. Regardless of who the other goalies are with the club, it will be Hellebuyck’s crease moving forward.
Hellebuyck’s current contract is up and he is due for a large raise. When looking at the top goalies in the league, they all make between $6-7 million except Lundqvist and Bobrovsky who make $8.5 and $7.4 million respectively. Look for Hellebuyck to sign a long term deal (5+ years) around the $6.5 million range. If Hellebuyck signed at $6.5 million it would put him equal to Carey Price as the fifth highest paid goalies in the league. For a young netminder who is coming off a career year, the long term deal should work out for both parties.