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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Jets tender local goalie Hellebuyck

The Metro Jets have announced the signing of goalie Connor Hellebuyck to a playing tender for the 2011-2012 season.

Hellebuyck, a soon-to-be graduate of Walled Lake Northern High School, played four years for the Knights and also had successful stints in the Michigan Developmental Hockey League and with Team Michigan this spring.

“We are pleased to have signed Connor to a tender,” Metro head coach Jason Cirone said. “He's a young man we pursued last year, so it’s nice to have him this year. He's a big goalie that competes on every puck, but more importantly, he's a quality person who will improve our team both on and off the ice.”

A tender is a contract of sorts a player signs announcing his intentions to play for that particular North American 3 Hockey League team and that NA3HL team only. Once a player signs a tender with an NA3HL team, his playing rights belong to that team within the NA3HL and he may not be recruited by any other NA3HL team. Each team is granted two tenders and tendered players are not eligible for the NA3HL draft.

Being a local player, Hellebuyck (pronounced HELL-uh-buck) is well-versed in what the Jets are all about.

“When I was tendered, I saw a team that has heavily improved since last year and a stable place to play,” said Hellebuyck who will turn 18 on May 19. “I didn’t get any special treatment as an individual, but my on-ice training will be greatly improved with Jason and (goaltending coach) Randy (Wilson) as coaches. I know the NA3HL is a good place to get experience. The NAHL can pick up players from the league and team which is always great when looking for a future in juniors and hockey.”

Hellebuyck said his hockey idol is former Washington Capitals’ goalie Olaf Kolzig and he sees similarities between himself and Kolzing, such as size and work ethic.

“My strengths as a goalie are my movement and size,” said Hellebuyck. “I’m a big goalie (6-foot-4, 190 pounds) and I work really hard to be fast, which I feel is key in the game today. Kolzig was big and solid. He took the Capitals to the Stanley Cup finals in the 1998 playoffs against the Red Wings and I will never forget that.”

Playing at Lakeland Arena, also the home rink of Walled Lake Northern, is a situation Hellebuyck hopes will propel him higher up the hockey ladder.

“My expectations for next season would be to improve greatly and pursue a future in junior hockey and someday college hockey,” said Hellebuyck. “The coaching is great here and that’s key for choosing a team.”

The Jets’ brass is still weighing their options on using the second tender, but looks to have their second player signed ahead of the NA3HL draft on May 31.

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