‘I wanted it so badly’: Winnipeg Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck voted NHL’s top goalie

A player on the Winnipeg Jets won a major year-end award for the first time since the team returned to the city almost a decade ago.

Goalie Connor Hellebuyck was named the winner of the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender.

The NHL announced their final five award winners in a scaled-down awards show on Monday ahead of game two of the Stanley Cup final.

Read more: Winnipeg Jets announce their 2019-20 season award winners

Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl was a double winner, taking both the Hart Trophy as most valuable player to his team, and the Ted Lindsay Award as the most outstanding player as voted by his peers.

The Nashville Predators’ Roman Josi is the Norris Trophy winner as the defenceman of the year.

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And Colorado Avalanche defenceman Cale Makar is the winner of the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.

Read more: Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck named a finalist for Vezina Trophy

Hellebuyck is the only Jets’ player from either era to get named the NHL’s top netminder.

He beat out Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins, and Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning who were the other two finalists.

“It’s very rewarding and almost a little bit of a sigh of relief because I was so close last time, and I wanted it so badly,” Hellebuyck said. “And this year was such a mental grind, but also so fun. I would have liked for playoffs to go a little bit better, but when I’m looking back on this year, I’m gonna say we did some great things.”

Hellebuyck received 19 of the 30 first place votes to finish with 129 voting points. Rask finished in second place with 10 first place votes, and 99 points. Vasilevskiy was voted first on just one ballot.

Hellebuyck was the clear cut number one choice for the award in only his fifth season in the league. He finished second in Vezina Trophy voting in the 2017-2018 season.

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The 27-year-old Michigan product led all goalies in saves, appearances, shots faced, and shutouts last season.

Hellebuyck recorded 31 wins, with a 2.57 goals-against average, and a .922 save percentage, with six shutouts.

“My whole game has kind of sculptured itself,” Hellebuyck said. “I’ve tightened up a lot of things. I think the biggest and most important part is my mind, and my mental game. It’s gotten a lot calmer, and I only care about the things that I need to care about.

“And I got some experience under the belt. So I don’t let my mind, and the roller coaster happen too big.”

Vasilevskiy won the league’s top goalie award last season, while Rask took home the honour in 2014.

Hellebuyck is the first netminder from a Canadian team to be named the NHL’s top goalie since Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens won the award in 2015.

The Vezina award is voted on by the league’s general managers.

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Winnipeg Jets star, Barrie Colts head coach Dale Hawerchuk dead at 57