Jets rookie goalie Hellebuyck the unflappable type

Zen master and surfer dude


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Part of the job description for any National Hockey League coach -- beside all that teaching and winning stuff -- is to occasionally pump the brakes on expectations.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/12/2015 (2448 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Part of the job description for any National Hockey League coach — beside all that teaching and winning stuff — is to occasionally pump the brakes on expectations.

A five-game winning streak doesn’t mean Stanley Cup parades should be mapped out, just as a five-game skid hardly calls for management’s heads to be slammed on pointy sticks. So when the topic of Connor Hellebuyck comes up — he joined the Winnipeg Jets last month dubbed “the best goaltender not in the NHL” by some, promptly won his first start and already has many in Jets Nation convinced his name will one day be engraved on the Vezina Trophy — Jets coach Paul Maurice throws up a big, fat stop sign.

“The line is… ‘Cats and shiny objects,’ ” Maurice said when asked about the buzz building around the Jets young netminder. “Just relax a little bit here. We’ll keep in mind he’s played in one (game) and he’s going to get the opportunity to play more.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Jets stoic goaltender Connor Hellebuyck will get a chance to show his skills in the coming weeks.

“He’ll get whatever he earns and deserves.”

Now, Maurice is by no means attempting to jam a needle into the Hellebuyck party balloon. The kid was solid in last week’s win over the Minnesota Wild and, with Ondrej Pavelec out until early 2016 and Michael Hutchinson hardly having wrapped his mitts around the No. 1 gig, there is a sense the timing might be perfect to let the prospect have a run at owning the blue paint.

It’s true, he may be the shiny object of the moment, but that sheen remains pretty dang bright.

‘I like to stay calm and let whatever’s happening out there happen. And then, make the best of whatever does happen’

— Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck

“One flash of light,” said Maurice, smiling patiently, “and we’ll get to see how shiny he is as we go forward.”

Here’s where the Jets are at with one of the best prospects in the organization, if not in pro hockey: it’s possible, maybe quite likely, Hellebuyck will get the tap on the shoulder for Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. What that leads to afterward — the Jets have a back-to-back on the weekend with the Washington Capitals here Saturday and a quick trip to play the Chicago Blackhawks Sunday — depends on this most basic of analytics: how many pucks he stops.

In any case, it’s hard not to get the sense during any conversation with Hellebuyck this whole deal — the chance to fast-track his road to the NHL and potentially grab a No. 1 job — is consuming him about as much as the decision this morning to have the strawberry-banana or the raspberry yogurt.

Based on his casual answers during a scrum that lasted all of two minutes and 28 seconds he had with the media Monday, we came to this conclusion: he’s either the coolest dude in the room or a cyborg.

Asked how he manages to keep a level head with all the buzz about him, Hellebuyck offered up this riveting response: “I don’t look at that stuff. I just try to go out there every day and get better.”

That part was there in full evidence Monday when Scott Brown, the Jets’ director of communications, had to ask Hellebuyck to come off the ice well after practice had ended to meet his media requirements. He’s big, he moves around the crease effortlessly and he’s already won internationally in leading the U.S. to a bronze medal at last year’s worlds and been dominant at the American Hockey League level.

But, again, the NHL scouting report on the guy is still pretty thin.

“I don’t know if he saw a good representation of what a normal (NHL) game is,” said Maurice of last Friday’s 3-1 win in Minny in which he faced only 15 shots while earning his first win. “But he made a few saves and got his feet wet.”

What’s next? Good question. But just don’t expect Hellebuyck to be all that outwardly affected either way. His demeanour, based on our limited dealings, seems to be part zen master, part surfer dude.

“I like to stay calm and let whatever’s happening out there happen,” he said with a shrug. “And then, make the best of whatever does happen. I’m trying to make every day my best.” Twitter: @WFPEdTait


Updated on Tuesday, December 1, 2015 7:30 AM CST: Photo changed.

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