Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sitting pretty between pipes

Jet well-stocked with goalie talent for years to come

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Quick, state the biggest improvement to the Winnipeg Jets' organization since the city's return to the NHL 25 months ago.

If you didn't say goaltending depth, you just fell down on a breakaway.

The Jets have gone from "Yes, We Have No Bananas," when they moved from Atlanta to a large bunch of potential puckstoppers as their 2013 summer development camp continued this week.

None of them will be running Ondrej Pavelec out of town in the next few months but when it comes to the longer-term future, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and his scouts are probably sleeping quite a bit better since their 2012 draft.

That's when they pulled goalies Connor Hellebuyck and Jamie Phillips with two of their last three picks and Hellebuyck, a 20-year-old from Commerce, Mich., turned into one of the brightest lights of the 2012-13 college hockey season.

'He's a big kid, very athletic and very competitive and he works at it. He takes every opportunity to compete and he made the most of his chance'

-- assistant GM Craig Heisinger on Connor Hellebuyck

The 6-4 netminder, a freshman, took over the nets at University of Massachussets-Lowell and posted a 1.37 goals against average, a .952 save percentage and a record of 20-3-0 with six shutouts as the Riverhawks soared all the way to the NCAA's Frozen Four.

Hellebuyck also turned in a 3.65 grade-point average as a member of the Hockey East all-academic team and was the MVP of the league's playoff tournament and a full-season, second-team all-star.

"It's kind of a dream come true," Hellebuyck said, asked about the last 14 months.

"Being drafted by the Jets was a dream come true. And being given that opportunity at Lowell is a dream come true, too. So I couldn't imagine it but I know I was willing to work hard enough for it."

Hellebuyck credited many people around him for the progress he's shown in little over a year.

"With the coaching staff I had, it was kind of easy," he said.

"And with the veteran goalie Doug Carr, I watched him at the beginning of the season and having him by my side, it really helped me a lot. He's always there, telling me what to do and he brings so much experience."

Hellebuyck also had the benefit of having alumnus and 16-year NHL veteran Dwayne Roloson as one of the team's goalie coaches.

"He's a great guy," Hellebuyck said. "I keep in touch with him. I can always learn from him. He's been through it all. Just having him around was even more experience.

Dramatically

"He just knows so many little details that improve your game dramatically. He's seen it all. If you haven't seen something and go ask him about it, he'll tell you about it."

Jets assistant GM Craig Heisinger was among those who kept a close, in-person eye on Hellebuyck last season.

"He wasn't the starter in the beginning" Heisinger said Tuesday. "He got his chance and he never let go of it. He had a good team and good instruction there. I think that certainly helped him move forward."

One the ice, Heisinger said there was no sense that Hellebuyck's emergence was something flukey.

"He's a big kid, very athletic and very competitive and he works at it," Heisinger said. "He takes every opportunity to compete and he made the most of his chance. That's hard to do as a freshman goalie on a very good team.

"For me, it's his size and his efficiency. He plays well out of the net and he doesn't give up rebounds. He just inhales the puck."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 17, 2013 D2

History

Updated on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 9:07 AM CDT: adds sidebar

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