WATERFORD, MI – Chris Hellebuyck will at least know one person in Odessa, Tex.
The Metro Jets’ forward is moving up to the North American Hockey League with the Odessa Jackalopes, a team his younger brother, Connor, plays for as the squad’s No. 1 goaltender.
Hellebuyck leaves the Jets as the team’s third-leading scorer with 21 goals and 40 points, also tied for the team lead in goals with Steve Klisz. He tallied 11 multi-point games, including a four-point outing on Sept. 9 against Flint.
“Hellebuyck is the perfect example of what hard work can do for a player,” said Metro coach Jason Cirone. “He plays in every situation and the rest of the guys follow his lead. He’s a leader on the ice and in the locker room and that’s a credit to him.”
Playing alongside Connor is something Chris hasn’t done since both played at Walled Lake Northern when Connor was a junior and Chris a senior. The duo also played on the same Mite team years back.
“My brother had a big part in my opportunity with Odessa by letting them know about me, but I think they also had noticed that I was having a good season so it all fit together well,” said Hellebuyck, a 19-year-old Commerce Township native. “It was nice having options, but I the situation with Odessa made me pretty excited. Connor has told me a lot of great stuff about their program and the chance to play with him again will be awesome.”
Cirone said he was consistently fielding calls from NAHL teams about Hellebuyck over the course of the season.
“There were several other teams that wanted Chris, but they just weren’t the right situation,” Cirone said. “I know (Odessa coach) Paul Gillis is a heck of a coach and does things the right way and I know the fans in Odessa are crazy about their hockey. I saw that first-hand when I would go in there a few years back when I played (in the Central Hockey League) for Rio Grande Valley. I think it will be an excellent situation for Chris.”
Drafted twice by the Jets (in 2010 and again in 2011), Hellebuyck said he couldn’t have made the jump to the NAHL without his stint in Waterford.
”I learned a lot from Jason this season, including a lot of the little things that I'll be able to take with me to the next level,” explained Hellebuyck. “It was great to have a coach like him and I have added a lot of the small things to my game so far. There will be a lot that I will miss leaving Metro, but I think the hardest part of leaving will be parting with my current teammates and coaches.
“It's a great program and I owe a lot to everyone involved.”
Photo/Andy Grossman/Detailed Images