There’s no denying that already this pre-season, even with limited action, the NHL’s change to 3-on-3 overtime has produced fewer shootouts and made for some beautiful overtime goals. But with so many odd-man rushes, it was only a matter of time before the outstanding OT saves starting rolling in.
After the Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild opened their pre-season with a scoreless draw through three periods, the teams headed to 3-on-3 to find the deciding goal. And after the Jets had a failed odd-man rush one way, the Wild turned around with 3-on-1.
Skating in on young Winnipeg netminder Connor Hellebuyck were Thomas Vanek, Matt Dumba and Tyler Graovac. With Dumba staying high as an option, Vanek looked off Hellebuyck and slid a perfect one-timer pass to Graovac, who rocketed a slapshot that was labelled for the back of the net. Hellebuyck had a different idea, though:
Incredible save or not, the game would end off the next faceoff when Dumba took a pass off the faceoff, skated in and lifted the puck past Hellebuyck. The crowd in Winnipeg was still buzzing from the save by the time Dumba scored the winner.
The thing is, though, Hellebuyck’s play in the pre-season, no matter how good, is unlikely to land him a job in the NHL this season. With Ondrej Pavelec having two years remaining on his contract and Michael Hutchinson with one-year remaining before restricted free agency, the Jets have no reason to rush the 22-year-old Hellebuyck into the NHL.
In 2014-15, Hellebuyck suited up for 58 games with the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps, posted a record of 28-22-5 and had a 2.58 goals-against average and .921 save percentage.
In the off-season, he was the starting netminder for a young Team USA at the World Championships and earned a bronze medal at the tournament. Of all goaltenders to play at the tournament, Hellebuyck posted the best GAA (1.37), best SP (.948) and was named to the tournament’s all-star team.
This season, Hellebuyck will suit up for the returning Manitoba Moose. Should Hellebuyck have a good year in the AHL in 2015-16, he could push either Hutchinson or Pavelec out the door to make space for him on the Jets’ roster by next campaign.