June 26, 2015 was the day when Jeremy Helvig thought his hockey career would continue along the way towards the NHL. It was the first night of the NHL Draft in Florida.
Jeremy didn’t hear his name called on January 25th or 26th. He was passed through the entire 2015 draft. So, naturally, questions about his future started to come up.
These questions were surprising because Jeremy was selected in the 3rd round, 45th overall by the Kingston Frontenacs in the 2013 OHL draft.
I remember talking to many scouts that year who viewed Jeremy not only as the best OHL draft eligible goalie, but as one of the best prospects in a long time. His development, like a lot of goalies, took its own curve. During his first season with Kingston in 2014-15, Jeremy’s statistics didn’t exactly stand out. His GAA was 4.55 and SVP of .862.
I was working with Ambrì Piotta in the Swiss A league during that season, so I was a little disconnected from some of the up and coming prospects in the 2015 NHL draft. However, I remember looking at the prospect lists of potential NHL draft picks and was really surprised when I didn’t see Jeremy’s name on the draft list.
I knew Jeremy’s agent, Paul Capizzano at the MFIVE Sports Management, and remember having a long conversation with him in the main bowl during the first round of the NHL draft. I knew and felt there was so much more this kid had, so I made a pitch to MFIVE about what we could help with.
I spoke with Jeremy and his dad soon after, and together we came up with a plan for that summer that would bring Jeremy in to PRO Goaltending’s Development Program.
We identified three main areas:
1) Helping Jeremy understand how to play, think, and manage the game for a goalie his size (he’s 6’4).
2) Developing a system. Jeremy didn’t exactly have one, so it was difficult to manage the ups and downs of a season without having a base to constantly go back to. Meaning, you truly have to understand your system inside out. There can’t be any grey. During the season, goalies need to go back to their system through the great/good/not-so-good/bad/ugly… it’s always about the next opportunity and a system is a great anchor point. It also had to be consistent day in, day out, in and out of the rink.
3) Jeremy is incredibly kind, smart, and soft-spoken. But, I’ve been in this business for a long time and it can be unkind, particularly to those who do not fully understand the “business side” of hockey and how it can have an impact on the people involved. Jeremy had to learn the business side of the game and how he could communicate as a professional to high-level hockey and business operations people.
These were three things we identified as a starting point. As a staff, we all rallied around these concepts and did everything we could to support Jeremy during his time with us that first summer. He totally invested in his development and understood the system would be the foundation and the rest would follow.
“Working with Mike during my first summer at PRO Goaltending really helped my game. The plan was to work on my footwork and my stance – both helped me stay square to pucks and eliminate holes,” Jeremy said.
And, like any high-end athlete, Jeremy put in the work. Going through change isn’t easy. It takes work. Jeremy knew he was going to have to work as an athlete and a person in order to make his ultimate dream of playing in the NHL possible.
Our first conversations were very black and white. I remember asking, “Are you going to allow yourself to be uncomfortable in order to make changes and advance your career?”
I’ve heard a lot of answers over the years. And I often say to kids after these talks, “We’ll see.”
I’m not being pessimistic with them. I’ve just heard and seen a lot. I’ve watched guys go after it, knowing how uncomfortable they feel and yet keep at it in the crease. Others understand, but they don’t put in the work. And some just flat out aren’t willing to try, despite talking a good game.
Jeremy walked the walk.
It takes someone with incredible self-awareness, guts, and determination to do this. It’s not easy to be on all the time. Jeremy’s a worker and the proof is just how well he’s played this year with Kingston. Simply put, he’s been a rock all year long.
“The key to my game this year is I had a lot of confidence going into the season, I’m calmer in the net, and my mental game is strong. All of this has helped me stay consistent all year,” Jeremy said.
In 2016, Jeremy realized he would take the next step in his hockey journey towards the NHL when he was drafted by Carolina.
I’m proud of how he’s progressed. You don’t come across many athletes like this who can dig in and stick to a plan. Jeremy’s done that and I believe the scouts I spoke to many years ago were on the right track. It’s just taken some extra time – and a lot of work – for the pieces to come together.
Michael Lawrence PRO Goaltending