LA Kings Looking For Goalie Prospect J.F. Berube To Step Up to #2 Position With AHL’s Manchester Monarchs

LA Kings goalie prospect Jean-Francois Berube, shown here during
pre-game warm-ups with the ECHL’s Ontario Reign.
(click to view larger image)
Photo: David Sheehan
LOS ANGELES AND ONTARIO, CA — For Los Angeles Kings goaltender prospect Jean-Francois Berube, the 2012-13 season was a step forward, but at the same time, it was also a mixed bag.

Indeed, Berube’s regular season numbers with the Ontario Reign (Kings’ ECHL affiliate) improved, year-to-year, but he played in considerably fewer games.

To illustrate, Berube, 22, played in 37 regular season games with the Reign in 2011-12, earning a 17-13-3 (and one shootout loss), with a 2.87 goals-against average (GAA), a .907 save percentage, and four shutouts.

In the 2012 playoffs, he was 1-2, with a 3.20 GAA, and a .878 save percentage in four games.

Last season, Berube played in 24 regular season games with Ontario, earning a 15-6-1 record (and one shootout loss), with a 2.24 GAA, a .910 save percentage, and one shutout.

In ten playoff games last season, Berube earned a 6-4 record (two overtime losses), with a 2.07 GAA, a .914 save percentage, and one shutout.

Despite the improved numbers, Berube’s 2012-13 season was a mixed bag because his ice time dropped as a result of being called up to the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League (Kings’ primary minor league affiliate) twice, first on January 7 (re-assigned to the Reign on January 17), and again on February 7 (re-assigned to Ontario on March 25).

The back-and-forth between Ontario, California, and Manchester, New Hampshire, going from a situation where he was playing regularly to one where he would be mostly watching from the bench, was definitely a challenge for the 6-1, 174-pound native of Repentigny, Quebec.

“It was a good experience, just being up there, working hard every day with the guys,” said Berube. “At the end of the day, that’s where I want to be next year, so it was good to be there, and make an impression. I think I did a good job in the games that I played in. Of course, you always want to have more ice time, but it is what it is.”

“I was watching Jonesy, seeing how consistent he is, from game to game,” added Berube. “He played a bunch of games while I was there, and just looking at how he prepares, and talking a little bit with him, it was a good experience.”

Kim Dillabaugh, who is in charge of goaltender development for the Kings, indicated that Berube made the most of a difficult situation.

“I think he took a good step forward last year, especially when we had him up in Manchester for about a month-and-a-half, when we had an injury to [backup goaltender] Peter Mannino,” said Dillabaugh. “At first, we didn’t think the injury was going to keep Peter on the sidelines as long as it did—it actually ended up finishing his season. But J.F. was our first option to call up.”

“From a timing perspective, it wasn’t the most ideal situation, simply because we wanted J.F. in Ontario, playing as much as he could, and in Manchester, we wanted Martin Jones playing as much as he could for him to take the next step in his development,” added Dillabaugh. “J.F. did miss out on some opportunity to play more in Ontario while he was in Manchester. But when he did go back, right before the playoffs, he took ahold of that number one job, and he was Ontario’s number one goaltender.”

“I got a chance to watch a couple of his games in the playoffs, and I definitely think he took a step forward. He was there to show that, ‘you know what? I haven’t played for awhile, but an opportunity is here for me to do that, so I’ve got to take hold of it.’ I think he did that. He did a good job for Ontario in the playoffs.”

Even though his numbers with Ontario improved last season, going into the 2012-13 season, the plan for Berube was for him to seize control of the number one goalie position in Ontario. But he was unable to earn enough trust from Reign head coach Jason Christie.

“Any organization would like their prospects to play in bigger roles, and have an opportunity to play as much as possible, to help their development, and we’re no different,” Dillabaugh noted. “[But] that’s Jason’s team, and he has to do what’s best for his team.”

“In terms of J.F. last year, he was partnered with Chris Carozzi, who, the previous year, had a very good season in Ontario,” Dillabaugh added. “He was a veteran guy coming back—those two guys were both back, fighting for minutes.”

“When you get two goaltenders who are playing very well, and have had success with [your team] in the past, it does make it a little more difficult to anoint one as your number one guy. You hope someone steps up, and completely takes control of that number one role, but again, the coach is there, on a daily basis, to make those decisions. Those aren’t for us to make.”

In other words, even if you consider the he spent a considerable amount of time with the Monarchs, it is clear that Berube was not consistent enough with the Reign to earn the number one spot last season.

“This past year, we would’ve liked to have seen him play more minutes,” Dillabaugh stressed. “There’s no question there. He’s worked extremely hard, developing his game in a lot of different areas, such as being able to get into a game, read the game, and utilizing all the areas that he worked on, identifying the right situations to utilize the right response. You can only mimic that by playing in a game. It’s hard to do in practice. With every young goaltender who continues to evolve, that hockey sense—being able to read and anticipate the game becomes that much more important.”

“From a skill level, a lot of these goaltenders have attributes that allow them to compete at a very high level,” Dillabaugh added. “But it’s about how you use those attributes—knowing when and how, and in what situation—that’s really the difference.”

Mental focus seems to be one area that Berube needs to improve upon. But Dillabaugh indicated that is no different from most young goaltenders.

“Something goaltenders need to adapt to is workload,” Dillabaugh explained. “As an example, last year in Ontario, they played a very strong team defense. They didn’t give up a lot of shots, and there are times when goaltenders are going through long periods of inactivity. If you ask any goaltender, they’d rather see 35-40 shots in a game because they’re involved in the game on a more consistent basis than when they see 18-20 shots.”

“That’s a mental obstacle and a mental challenge for goaltenders, to make sure that if you go eight minutes without seeing a shot, and then you see a grade A scoring chance, you’ve kept yourself prepared, mentally, and focused, to be able to handle that situation, and have success,” Dillabaugh elaborated. “I think that’s something he worked through over the course of the year. It was something he had to adapt to, and get better at.”

Berube noted that Dillabaugh has spoken to him about that, and other “little things” to work on.

“He said that he doesn’t want me to change my game,” said Berube. “There’s little things I need to work on, nothing major, like keeping my head on the puck, stuff like that.”

Looking ahead, Berube could end up back in Ontario for a third season in the ECHL. He would certainly get a lot more playing time, especially if he can step up, and seize control of the Reign’s number one goaltending position. But there are advantages to moving up to the AHL, even if he would be in a backup role with the Monarchs.

“I think there’s advantages to both,” said Dillabaugh. “Obviously, if you’re a number one guy, at any level, you’re going to play a lot more minutes than you would as a number two. There are [also] advantages of being at a higher level, with more consistent players. It’s just a higher competitive level, overall.”

“Being around that, practicing at that level, and being able to compete at that level is going to benefit his game, as well, so it’s hard to say if one is better than the other. There’s value in both.”

That said, the Kings want him to step up and earn the backup role with the Monarchs next season.

“If you look at where we are, in terms of our depth, there’s an opportunity for him to move up,” Dillabaugh noted. “But again, how he approaches that opportunity will determine where he ends up. That’s for management to decide, not [Kings goaltending coach] Bill [Ranford] or myself. But we want to see him take the next step and compete for that second job in Manchester. That’s got to be his mindset coming into this year.”

“He’s spent two years in Ontario, and our expectation is for him to challenge for that number two spot in Manchester.”

Frozen Royalty’s J.F. Berube Coverage

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18 thoughts on “LA Kings Looking For Goalie Prospect J.F. Berube To Step Up to #2 Position With AHL’s Manchester Monarchs

Add yours

  1. Gann..Great article!
    Giving us readers a chance to know more in depth how a goalie evolves, not just his physical play, but the mental as well.
    Very insightful. Thank you.

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