LA Kings Goalie Prospect J.F. Berube Pushed Hard To Take The Next Step

Los Angeles Kings goaltender prospect Jean-Francois Berube, shown here during the team’s 2013 Rookie Camp.
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Photo: David Sheehan/
LOS ANGELES — After completing an up-and-down—literally—2012-13 season, Los Angeles Kings goaltender prospect Jean-Francois Berube set his sights on taking the next step in his development—earning a spot on the roster of the American Hockey League’s Manchester Monarchs, the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate.

But after being unable to firmly establish himself as the number one goalie with the Kings’ ECHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign, over the prior two seasons, and especially with him not getting as much ice time last season as he did the previous year after spending several weeks with the Monarchs in a backup role, there were questions in the minds of the Kings’ brain trust about what the better move would be for Berube: do they get him more ice time by sending him back to Ontario for a third season, or do they have him play in a backup role at the AHL level with the Monarchs?

Even though the Kings expressed hope over the summer that Berube would be good enough to play at the AHL level this season, there was some thought that he might have to return to the ECHL. But Berube’s hard work this past summer made the decision rather easy for the Kings.

“I had a pretty good summer back home, training,” said Berube. “I feel like I got [a lot] stronger, I worked on some personal stuff, and I came into training camp on top of my game and ready.”

Berube indicated that changes to his training regimen made quite the difference over the past two summers.

“I changed my physical trainer [back home] the previous year, and I started to feel a big difference, so I just kept going with the same guy [this past summer],” he said. “He’s really rough, but we have the time to rest, and when you go back to the gym, you’re ready to roll for another week.”

“The biggest thing the Kings wanted me to do was to get stronger, so I didn’t skate that much [over the summer],” he added. “I had to go [to Southern California] for Development Camp, Rookie Camp, and we had a goalie camp, too, for a week. I didn’t skate much, other than in those camps. I was probably on the ice once or twice a week, [at most]. In the gym, it was just to get my conditioning to another level, and to build up some muscle.”

Berube has also worked on his conditioning.

“It’s more about my recovery time,” Berube noted. “Being in better condition cuts my recovery time a lot, and I just don’t feel as tired after a hard workout, or after a hard day at the rink. Now, it’s so much easier to recover, and I feel like I’m able to go for hours.”

All that hard work this past summer paid off during the Kings’ annual Rookie Camp and Training Camp this past Fall, earning him the promotion, and Monarchs head coach Mark Morris noticed Berube’s improvement right off the bat.

“He’s gotten stronger for sure,” said Morris. “His puck handling is better, he looks bigger in the net, and he’s had a chance to watch [Kings goaltending prospect Martin Jones, the Monarchs number one netminder] work. Those two guys seem to have a pretty good relationship.”

“[The difference is] pretty clear, between him and Jonesy, but [Berube] controls his body so much better, because his legs are stronger,” added Morris. “He looks bigger in the net than he used to. A lot of that is continued work with our goalie staff, and the more he plays, the better he’s going to get.”

As mentioned earlier, Berube literally had an up-and-down season last year, which included two stints with the Monarchs. With Jones getting the lion’s share of the starts for Manchester, Berube’s ice time dropped by a considerable amount—the exact opposite of what a goaltending prospect needs to develop his game.

But even before last season, Berube struggled to get starts with the Reign, especially in the first half of the 2011-12 season, as he recovered from off-season hip surgery.

“After my [hip] surgery, it took me a little while, two or three years ago, to get back into shape, and back where I wanted to be,” Berube explained. “Now, I feel like I’m back where I need to be, but I still have room for improvement, that’s for sure.”

“I was off the ice for three months, and I was on crutches for a month after that,” Berube elaborated. “I couldn’t walk, so I almost had to learn how to walk again, starting really slowly with some movements, range of motion. It took five or six months before I could start skating, and it was a good nine months before I really started to feel comfortable with my hip.”

Indeed, Berube was still feeling some pain, and as one might expect, that had an adverse effect on his play.

“I was in Ontario, and it was hard,” he noted. “I was doing what I had to do to feel better. Those surgeries sometimes takes a long time to recover from. You have to make sure you’re [getting] the treatments you need.”

“It was hard, mentally, because I knew I wasn’t game-ready,” he added. “It was hard to go into a game because I had a little bit of fear of re-injuring it, [because] some movements were still painful. It was in the back of my head. The biggest thing was to put those thoughts aside, and just focus on my game.”

“I just want to show that I’ve improved, and that I’ve come a long way since my [hip] surgery. Right now, I’m 100 percent, and I’m ready to take the next step.”

Back to the present…now that Berube’s hip is no longer a concern, his hard work with the Kings goaltending staff and his strength and conditioning training just might be starting to pay bigger dividends.

“The one thing about [Berube] is that he’s clearly improved,” said Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi. “I think the kid has really adapted to what [Kings goaltending coach] Bill Ranford and Kim Dillabaugh [who handles goaltender development for the Kings] have been teaching.”

“The learning curve has definitely spiked in the last few months,” added Lombardi. “The learning curve never goes straight up, but I would say we’re in an up cycle right now. This kid is a much better goalie than he was twelve months ago.”

Another year has also helped Berube in the “growing up” department—greater maturity should help him deal with limited ice time in a backup role this season.

“[Playing as a backup goaltender] is my job now, so it’s just coming to the rink, trying to improve my game every day, and do whatever I need to do,” Berube stressed. “Like right now, I don’t have much ice time in games, so it’s just to get ready for that next game. I don’t know when [I’ll play], so I just need to do some extra work, keep doing what’s made me successful, and not worry about what’s going to happen.”

“It’s about the present, and that’s all that I can control,” he added. “It’s just learning how to become a pro. Just maturity, reading the game, and preparing for games. I think I’ve come a long way [in those areas], and it’s made a huge difference in my game. Those are the biggest things for me. I know how to stop pucks. Right now, it’s just about how I’m going to mature, how I’m going to read plays, and just getting stronger, physically and mentally.”

Berube indicated that playing as a backup has some advantages at this point in his career.

“I don’t see that as something that’s difficult, because I get to be with one of the best goalies in the AHL,” he noted. “It’s fun to practice with [Jones]. I can talk with him, get some tips, and learn from what he does.”

“The last two weeks, watching him play, you can learn a lot, so it’s not bad for me to take a step back, and look at the game,” he added. “But for sure, I want to be in the net, and that’s my goal. What I’m trying to do now is challenge Jones at practices. When I do get a chance to play, I just want to do my job, and the team a chance to win.”

“I’m just trying to take the next step. We’ll see what happens with Jonesy, but I’m ready to face adversity. I know it won’t be easy, but I’ve worked hard all summer, and I’m ready for it.”

Berube’s first chance is expected to come this weekend.

“We haven’t had an opportunity to put him in the net, but he may get it this weekend,” said Morris. “We have a three-in-three, so it would be a good time to turn him loose and see what he can do. I’m anxious to see him this weekend.”

The Monarchs play tonight at Hartford before they host Providence and Wilkes-Barre Scranton on October 19 and 20, respectively.

“I’m not sure which I’m game I’m going to get yet, but I spoke with Coach Morris, and he said I’d get one game this weekend,” said Berube. “He’s working to see which one would be the best one for me.”

“I’ll be ready. I’m excited to get that first game in. I feel really good this year, and I feel that I’m on top of my game right now.”

Frozen Royalty’s J.F. Berube Coverage

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