Hellebuyck looks back and forwardBy: Mitch Peacock | Published: April 12th 2016
Connor Hellebuyck has packed a lot into his first two years as a pro.
More than 110 combined appearances at the American Hockey League and National Hockey League levels for starters; a workload he says has been the foundation for nurturing his talents.
“I think it’s everything…coming from college I was not prepared for the amount of stress on your body. I hit a wall last year and I didn’t know how to get past it, I finally learned how to get past it. So, coming back at that this year I know how to get past that and I’m actually kind of showing it and using the tricks I’ve learned. It’s a huge development that’s really going to help me down the road.”
This past weekend, at the club’s final home game of the season, Connor was presented with the FloForm Countertops Most Valuable Player Award.
But while Hellebuyck is among the AHL leaders in save percentage, it was a pat-on-the-back he didn’t see coming.
“It’s a huge honour, I actually wasn’t expecting it. I was up and down this year (with the Jets) and I didn’t know. There’s a lot of guys on this team that probably deserved it so it’s a huge honour just to be able to look back on the season and know that I was this big of a part of it. It’s a good feeling.”
And if you’re thinking Connor sounds like a pretty good teammate with that kind of consideration for the others in the dressing room you’re on the right track.
When Ondrej Pavelec was injured back in November, Hellebuyck was called-up to help fill the void.
It was his first chance at the NHL (aside from an end-of-AHL season spell last year that didn’t include any games), and he was determined to show his new teammates he could do his part.
“There was a little transition period where I definitely needed to get the new shots, the new players, and the new faces and then every day I was trying to earn their respect. There’s nothing that can prepare you for that, it was just I had to go and give my best and show everyone how much I cared”
When Pavelec was ready to work again Connor had put together a solid first stint in the NHL with a 13-11-0 record, 2.34 goals-against, .918 save percentage and a couple of shutouts.
But, beyond some good stats Hellebuyck says there were some valuable lessons learned.
“There’s a lot that I could take back, but just overall I felt like a better goaltender and when I say I was slowly developing I mean I was actually making huge strides but it wasn’t showing as much. When I came back down I feel like I showed everything that I learned up there. I improved overall as a player, not only as a player, I think I matured as a person too.”
And there may be no better indication of that maturing than when asked about what’s next when it comes to his hockey journey.
With Jets’ camp coming up in the fall and a chance to play with team North America at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey he’s all business about the summer ahead.
“I think this off-season is going to be probably one of the most important off-seasons of my career. Next year is going to be a very important year for me and I want to be fully prepared and fully rested for it. The World Cup is a huge honour and a huge opportunity for me to go and show that I have what it takes and I want to be fully prepared for that, and I want my body to be ready for that and the long haul of another (pro) season.”
Hellebuyck turns 23 next month and with talk about the World Cup and a shot at a job in the NHL it would be easy to start feeling like he’s got it made, but that’s just not his way.
“I don’t want my head to get too big. I want to stay humble, and I want to keep my confidence levels exactly where they need to be in order to succeed so I don’t let anything creep in I just go about my business everyday.”
Connor and the Moose close out the season with games in San Antonio and Austin this week. You can catch the action LIVE on moosehockey.com and TSN1290 starting Friday night from San Antonio at 7:15pm.