PITTSBURGH – Two goaltenders that played in the North American Hockey League last season were selected at the NHL Entry Draft on Saturday at the CONSOL Energy Centerand one has ties to the Metro Jets.
Connor Hellebuyck, a 19-year-old Commerce Township native taken in the fifth round (130th overall) by the Winnipeg Jets, played last year for the Odessa (Tex.) Jackalopes after being the Jets’ first-ever tendered player during the spring of 2011.
Hellebuyck’s older brother, Chris, played for Metro last season and also saw action in Odessa late in the year.
“I was literally speechless when it happened because I was texting with one of my teammates and watching the draft on TV,” Connor Hellebuyck told NAHL.com. “They went to commercial and during that time, I got a text that congratulated me on being a Jet. They came back from commercial and there was my name on the screen.
“It’s surreal. I’ve had a mile-wide smile on my face since the pick, it’s still on and I can’t get it off. I did a lot of interviews with teams, but the Jets really upped their interest in the past few days. I had a pretty good inkling it’d be them.”
Hellebuyck was dominant in the South Division in his lone NAHL campaign, leading the league in appearances (53), minutes played (3,084) and total saves (1695).
“Playing all those games in one year is exactly what I needed,” said Hellebuyck. “The Jackalopes really gave me a chance. They set me up for success and with the amazing coaching and the support and work of the professional staff, thanks to them, I really couldn’t fail.”
Hellebuyck was coming off his first season in the NAHL in which he won both goaltender and rookie of the year awards and also committed to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
Corpus Christi goalie Anthony Stolarz was drafted in the second round (45th overall) by the Philadelphia Flyers.