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Past Fantasy Outlooks
Heading into last season, Hellebuyck was facing a “prove it” year with the possibility of being bounced from the starting job by Steve Mason. Well after racking up 44 wins in 67 games along with a 2.36 GAA and career-high .924 save percentage, the hulking netminder landed a six-year, $37 million contract (sixth highest AAV among goalies) and was nominated for the Vezina Trophy. The next challenge for the youngster is whether he can continue to perform at such an elite level. Being backed by on offense that was second in the league in scoring last year (3.33 goals per game) will certainly help the Michigan native continue racking up wins. Another season like 2017-18 and it won't be long before Hellebuyck's name is consistently listed alongside those of Pekka Rinne, Braden Holtby and Tuukka Rask.
The 2016-17 campaign was intended to be Hellebuyck’s first full season patrolling the crease, but he posted a 2.99 GAA and .906 save percentage through 29 games after the All-Star break, ultimately relinquishing minutes to Ondrej Pavelec (and later, Michael Hutchinson) in a failed bid for a playoff spot. However, since the goalie change went awry by virtue of Pavelec sustaining a litany of injuries and then moving to the Big Apple in the offseason, Hellebuyck once again enters the year as the presumptive No. 1 backstop in Winnipeg. he'll thus be in fine position to improve on his 26-19-4 record -- including four shutouts -- from 2016-17, as the Jets are a team on the rise. Should the 24-year-old’s case of the hiccups persist, veteran newcomer Steve Mason is waiting in the wings as a contingency plan for coach Paul Maurice. While he can be maddeningly inconsistent, Hellebuyck should be motivated to rebound in a contract year, making him a sneaky (and likely rather inexpensive) fantasy option.
Hellebuyck got an opportunity in his rookie season with the Jets, notching a 13-11-1 record with a .918 save percentage, 2.34 GAA and two shutouts. Not bad numbers for a first-year netminder, but the AHL will still be a part of his routine for the foreseeable future with Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson still on the roster. The 23-year-old could, however, become the long-term goalie in Winnipeg, especially with more experience under his belt. Unless the Jets make some preseason moves, Hellebuyck will start the year third in the pecking order, but he could step into the limelight sooner rather than later.
Hellebuyck performed admirably for AHL St. John’s last season, posting a 28-22-5 record with a 2.58 GAA and a .921 save percentage over 58 games in his first professional campaign. His numbers probably would have been even better if he hadn’t been suiting up for one of the poorer defensive teams in the AHL. The former UMass-Lowell goaltender took home the Mike Richter award as the best netminder in NCAA hockey as a sophomore in 2014, and he's regarded as one of the top goalie prospects in all of hockey. However, he currently sits behind Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson on the Jets’ depth chart, so he'll likely spend most of the 2015-16 season in the AHL unless one of those top two guys struggles mightily or gets hurt. However, he’s only 22 years old and has plenty of time to develop into a true starting NHL goaltender over the next few years. With Hutchinson’s deal set to expire after the upcoming season, Hellebuyck is one for fantasy owners to keep an eye on, as he's expected to start knocking on the door this year.
Hellebuyck, 21, has been honing his craft at the college level with UMass-Lowell the past two seasons, producing back-to-back campaigns with a sub-2.00 GAA and a total of 12 shutouts during that time. The winner of the inaugural Mike Richter Award given to the nation’s top collegiate goaltender, Hellebuyck has evolved from a fringy prospect drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft to the likely No. 3 goalie on the Jets’ organizational depth chart. The simultaneous rise of fellow goalie prospect Michael Hutchinson might be a potential roadblock to No. 1 duties in the long-term, but with a strong debut season at AHL St. John’s, it wouldn’t be out of the question for Hellebuyck to ascend to the top of the heap by 2015-16.