ONTARIO, CA — As young goaltenders Jonathan Quick and Erik Ersberg show promise in handling the goaltending chores for the Los Angeles Kings, and with Jonathan Bernier and Daniel Taylor developing their netminder skills with the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, the Kings now have two more young goaltending prospects honing their skills right here in Southern California.
Zatkoff, 20, began the season with the Reign and has earned a 16-14-1 record with a 2.94 goals-against average (GAA), a .915 save percentage and one shutout in 34 appearances (1,981 minutes played).
Last season, Zatkoff earned a 27-8-1 record with a 1.72 GAA, a .933 save percentage and three shutouts. He led the CCHA in goals-against average and save percentage and was ranked second in both categories in the NCAA. He also ranked second in the CCHA in wins and was tied for second nationally.
The 6-1, 180-pound native of Detroit, Michigan was also named to the CCHA All-Tournament Team.
In the 2006-07 season, Zatkoff was 14-8-3 with a 2.26 GAA, a .919 save percentage and one shutout in 26 appearances for the Redhawks. He ranked second in the CCHA in goals-against average and was fifteenth in the NCAA. He also ranked third in the CCHA in save percentage.
Zatkoff also represented the United States at the 2007 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Sweden.
In three seasons with the Redhawks, Zatkoff earned a 55-21-5 record.
Coming out of college hockey, the question about Zatkoff’s game was if he could make the transition from a relatively light schedule in college hockey to playing a lot more games in the pros.
“I think the biggest thing [the Kings] wanted from me—first-year pro, coming from college where you only play Friday and Saturday, twice a week—they wanted me to get adjusted to the pro style and prove that I can play on a consistent basis, night in and night out, not just Friday and Saturday. That’s been the biggest test for me,” said Zatkoff. “The biggest thing is the games, night in, night out, the body getting used to it.”
“You’ve got to be more of a professional,” added Zatkoff. “You can’t get away with eating certain things. You’ve got to make sure you take care of your body, whether it’s stretching or rehab, especially the past couple of weeks—we played four games in five nights in back-to-back weekends. That’s been the biggest adjustment for me so far.”
Zatkoff has carried much of the load for the Reign this season and will now be relied upon even more as the Reign have qualified for the ECHL playoffs.
“So far, so good,” Zatkoff said about his season with the Reign. “We’ve got a good team here. We play a system that’s suitable for a goaltender. We play very well defensively and we keep a lot of shots to the outside.”
“Guys block a lot of shots for me,” Zatkoff elaborated. “That makes it fun for me to try even harder out there. It’s been a good year.”
Somewhere in the middle of his good year with the Reign was a brief stint with the Monarchs, a short-term promotion of sorts.
Zatkoff put up some fairly impressive numbers in three games with the Monarchs (182 minutes played), earning a 1-2-0 record with a 2.31 GAA and a .918 save percentage.
“It was exciting for me,” he said. “It kind of broke up the year a little bit and gave me the opportunity to see if I can play at that level. It was a good little run, I got three games and fortunately, played pretty well in them.”
Back to Ontario…playing just down Interstate 10 from Staples Center does have its advantages for a young goaltender, working to improve his game.
“It’s nice for me to take a quick drive to watch the Kings games and whenever [goaltending coach] Bill Ranford is in town, he gets a night where he can pop in, see me play and give me tips,” said Zatkoff. “It’s definitely a benefit being this close for me.”
Speaking of being close to “home,” the Kings brought Rowat to Southern California when they assigned him, along with defenseman prospect Colten Teubert, to the Reign on March 20.
“It was an up-and-down season for our team,” said Rowat. “We got in a rut and never recovered. It was a big disappointment for everyone. We had a really talented roster but we just couldn’t seem to get a win. We made too many mistakes and ended our season early.”
The 6-2, 181-pound native of Cochrane, Alberta appeared in 48 games (2,735 minutes played) for the Pats this season, earning a 19-24-1 record, a 3.07 GAA, a .901 save percentage and two shutouts.
Even though the Pats’ season was over, the Kings were not about to allow Rowat and Teubert to hang up their skates yet. Rather, they decided to keep them playing with the Reign, where they will gain experience in post-season play.
Indeed, the Reign played well early, but sagged in the second and third periods. The Roadrunners won the game, 4-2.
Rowat allowed four goals on 27 shots, although he had no chance on the Roadrunners’ final goal, which was scored off a shorthanded, two-on-one break.
“I thought [Rowat] played really well early on,” Reign head coach Karl Taylor said about his 20-year-old netminder. “I thought the second and third ones he’d like to have back, but he’s a young kid trying to learn.”
“Coming in, I thought he did a really good job, giving us a chance in the second when they pushed hard,” added Taylor. “It’s disappointing those squeaked by him because I thought he played better than to deserve that fate at the end.”
Rowat was unfazed by a less-than-stellar professional debut.
“I thought it was a pretty good game,” he said. “Unfortunately, they came back in the third and capitalized on some scoring chances. But the guys played really well in the first period, only giving them five shots.”
“They controlled most of the play in the second period,” he added. “The Roadrunners turned it up and put some heat on us. We took some unnecessary penalties but overall, I thought it was a pretty good game.”
Moving up from junior hockey, Rowat immediately noticed the difference at the ECHL level.
“The biggest thing is the speed of the shots and the speed of the passes,” he explained. “They make a lot quicker plays, they’ve got quicker releases. You just have to get your timing down. I was on the ice this week and a little bit this morning trying to get a feel for the puck.”
A big part of Rowat’s development will be for him to learn to be more consistent and not go down to his knees too soon.
“[The Kings are looking for] more consistency and with that, I have to be more patient on my feet, more reactive to pucks,” he explained. “That’s what I’m working on really hard here—standing on my feet more and then making the save from there instead of going down early and making the save from my knees.”
Looking ahead to next season, Rowat knows that he is near the bottom of the depth chart, but is looking forward to playing a full season in professional hockey.
“I’m probably one of the last of the goalies [the Kings have] got,” said Rowat. “Zatkoff has had a great year here. They’ve got Bernier and two guys in the NHL. I just have to come in here, play well in the games they give me and if I can earn a roster spot and play here next year, I’ll be really happy with that.”
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