Slapshot Fantasy

Jets Goalie Connor Hellebuyck Could Be a Fantasy Sleeper

 

The NHL All-Star Game this year was certainly a spectacle, celebrating hockey’s “everyman”, John Scott. While there’s no fantasy value to be had in Scott, who will likely be spending most of the season in the American Hockey League, it’s worth it to embrace some of the values he represents.

Going right along with the underdog spirit taking us into February, let’s take a look at the underrated Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck.

The Jets’ 22-year-old netminder has managed to win a game here and there despite Winnipeg’s disappointing season. Just like NHL fans took notice of Scott this past weekend, it is time fantasy owners finally gave credit to Hellebuyck.

He is 12-9-1 with a .927, 2.10 GAA and two shutouts this season. That’s not bad for a guy who spent last season with the St. John’s IceCaps. Hmm, the very same St. John’s IceCaps that Scott will join this week. Coincidence?

Hellebuyck spent the beginning of this season in the AHL as well before the Jets called him up in November to replace the injured Ondrej Pavelec. Hellebuyck immediately took advantage of his opportunity, going 4-0-0 with a 0.939 save percentage and a 1.72 GAA in his first four starts. Even with losses in his next two starts, Hellebuyck became the full-time starter, and he has continued to play well despite not much help around him.

The Jets have averaged just 2.20 goals per game over their last 20 games. That’s why Hellebuyck has only managed to win eight of his 18 starts. And in two of those wins, Hellebuyck had to carry the team to 1-0 shutouts. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the only goal Winnipeg could muster was on a penalty shot, yet Hellebuyck found a way to win it.

His 8-9-1 record isn’t anything to brag about, but his other numbers are sparking. In the last 18 games, the 22-year-old has a 0.924 save percentage and 2.19 GAA.

If there is anything fantasy owners can complain about with Hellebuyck’s play, it is his shorthanded goaltending. He has a 0.837 save percentage while shorthanded and has allowed 17 power-play goals in his 22 appearances. Winnipeg has killed just 77.0 percent of its penalties with Hellebuyck in net.

Of course, this is just another example of why Hellebuyck is actually doing more with less help around him. Since November 27, the Jets penalty kill is working at just 72.4 percent without him in net. For the season, Winnipeg is ranked 27th in penalty kill percentage at 77.2 percent.

Hellebuyck hasn’t been good when tested on the power play either. He has faced six shots while the Jets had a power play and allowed one goal. Incredibly, 18 of the 45 goals Hellebuyck in the NHL has allowed have come on special teams.

That means his five-on-five goaltending has been absolutely outstanding. His 0.947 save percentage at even strength is the best in the NHL among netminders with at least five appearances.

There is one big difference, however, between Scott and Hellebuyck. The former will always be an underdog. Although he is at the moment, Hellebuyck likely won’t stay one for long.

He is already owned in 56 percent of Yahoo leagues. It’s really only a matter of time before fantasy owners begin claiming him like a John Scott All-Star jersey.

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