Only Terry Sawchuck (44 wins, twice), Andrei Vasilevskiy (42 wins), Roger Crozier (40 wins) and Marc-Andre Fleury (40 wins) have put together 40-win seasons at the age of 24 or under.
Its been a remarkable campaign for the Commerce, Michigan native. After being drafted 130th overall in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Hellebuyck made a case for himself with back-t0-back stellar seasons in the NCAA with U-Mass. Picking up 20 and 18-win seasons, respectively, Hellebuyck earned his shot with the then St. John’s Ice Caps which then transitioned over to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.
Following injuries and inconsistent play at the NHL level, Hellebuyck was called up to the bigs in the 2015-16 season. He hasn’t looked out of place since.
Playing 56 games in 2016-17, Hellebuyck put up a respectable 26-19-4 record with a .907 save percentage and a 2.89 goals against average.
The Jets then went out and signed veteran netminder Steve Mason during peak NHL free agent season. Surely, the crease in 2017-18 would be Mason’s to lose, no?
After beginning the year horribly, Mason found himself on the injured reserve again and again. With Mason sidelined, Hellebuyck shone mightily. Picking up wins in every situation, the 24-year-old backstop unquestionable took over the starting role early on in the season, and will not be relinquishing it anytime soon.
Currently sporting a 40-11-9 record with six shutouts and a .923 save percentage and a 2.38 goals against average, Hellebuyck has found his way into the Vezina Trophy conversation, and rightly so. Ranked third in both wins and shutouts has Hellebuyck potentially slotted in as a Vezina Trophy finalist this season.
Adding to the 6-foot-4, 210 pound goalie’s stellar campaign is his record at home. Currently sitting at 28 home wins on the season, the American goaltender will tie former Flame Miikka Kiprusoff for the most home wins by a goaltender all-time with his next home win of the season. If he records another home victory, the all-time record will be his.
The best part is, Hellebuyck and the Winnipeg Jets have two games left. Will he be given the chance to make history at home as Winnipeg closes out its season against Calgary and Chicago in early April?
By Carter Brooks
Photo by James Carey Lauder