LA Kings Goalie Prospect J.F. Berube Looks To Take An Even Bigger Step Forward In 2014-15

LA KINGS PROSPECT WATCH: Throughout the summer, Frozen Royalty will be taking a look at several of the Los Angeles Kings’ young prospects. In this installment, the focus is on 2009 fourth round selection, goaltender Jean-Francois Berube. Audio interviews with Berube and Kim Dillabaugh, who handles goaltender development for the Kings, are also included.

LA Kings goaltender prospect J.F. Berube (left) and Kim Dillabaugh (right),
who handles goaltender development for the Kings, shown here
during a practice session on May 8, 2014, at the
Toyota Sports Center in EL Segundo, California.
Photo: David Sheehan/
LOS ANGELES — Back on June 13, 2014, at Staples Center in Los Angeles, more than one hour after the Los Angeles Kings had won the 2014 Stanley Cup Championship by defeating the New York Rangers in Game 5, 3-2 in double overtime, most of the Kings players had retreated into their dressing room as their own, private celebration had begun.

But a few players remained on the ice, soaking in the atmosphere. This handful of players also hoisted hockey’s version of the Holy Grail, but only briefly, and they did not skate with the Stanley Cup at all.

Those players were some of the Black Aces—young prospects who had been recalled during the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, to observe rather than play.

One player in particular stood alone near center ice, gazing into the stands as he turned around, taking the time to appreciate something he hoped to earn on his own someday.

“It was exciting,” said goaltender prospect Jean-Francois Berube, who was selected by the Kings in the fourth round (95th overall) of the 2009 National Hockey League Entry Draft. “You never knew which way it would go. The whole playoffs that I’ve been here, it was up and down hockey. They were down two goals and they would always come back. They always found a way to win and that’s what good teams do. They just find a way.”

“Everyone’s in the same boat, added the 23-year-old native of Repentigny, Quebec. “There’s not one guy who you can say that didn’t give his all. It’s fun to see that and it’s really motivating for the guys who were watching from the dressing room, to see how the players are handling themselves and how much confidence they have in each other and in themselves.”

“It’s a really special group. I don’t think there’s any team that’s that special. Everyone has their own skills and they all use them to their full potential. Everyone put so much work in. Everyone has bumps and bruises, but you know what? They just put it aside for their teammates right next to them. That’s really motivating and really special.”

Berube indicated that even though he only got to watch the Kings march through the playoffs from the dressing room, there were lessons to be learned.

“We weren’t in the games, but we were there, feeling it, being in the dressing room, seeing all the emotions and what was said between periods,” he noted. “You learn every day, being here. All little things, not only on the ice, but off the ice, too. I’ve been here about a month, and I’ve grown up so much. It’s fun to be part of that special group.”

“It’s the way they come to the rink every day,” he added. “Every day, guys were going to the rink and they were there for business. They had a goal and everyone was on the same page. Just to see how everyone was preparing, not just for games, but for practices, too. They were really focused and you could see that.”

The way the Kings’ veterans focused on the task at hand and never dwelled on the past was something Berube took particular note of.

“Sometimes, I have a tendency to get rattled and think about what I should’ve done,” said Berube. “[But the Kings] were never talking about yesterday. They were talking about what’s in front of them. It’s something that’s hard to do, but when you do it, it really keeps your mind fresh and on the positive side.”

“You try not to show it, but there’s times when you’re [upset] about [the previous] night’s game,” added Berube. “That’s when you need to reset and re-focus on what’s ahead. I do that, most of the time. But sometimes, I get caught with some bad energy. You want to make sure you stay on the positive side.”

Berube Was Ready For Surprise Opportunity

Nearly two months after they won the 2014 Stanley Cup Championship, the Kings are still in celebration mode, with the Stanley Cup in the hands of the players who have taken the greatest of all sports trophies as far as Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, the East Coast of the United States, and throughout Canada.

Meanwhile, the Kings’ young prospects, including Berube, are already preparing for the 2014-15 season.

Berube remained in the Los Angeles area through the end of June, and returned home to Montreal in the first week of July.

“I spent two extra weeks in L.A. after we won the Cup,” he said. “Then, I flew back home in the first week of July. I went straight back, into the gym and started skating not too long after that.”

Berube put up very solid numbers for the Monarchs last season, earning a 28-17-2 record in the regular season, with a 2.37 goals-against average (GAA), a .913 save percentage and three shutouts. In the playoffs, his GAA improved to 1.67 and his save percentage of .936 was outstanding.

Despite those numbers, Berube stressed that he should have been even better.

“I think my numbers could’ve been even better because there were times when I kind of fell asleep, or in the third game in three days (weekends), I wasn’t as sharp as I would be for the Friday game,” he explained.

Despite that, the Kings were pleased with Berube’s performance last season.

“We were very happy with him,” said Kim Dillabaugh, who handles goaltender development for the Kings. “Going into the season, with the way we were set up with Jonathan [Quick] and Ben [Scrivens] in Los Angeles, and Martin [Jones] and J.F. down there [in Manchester], J.F. really fit into that number four hole. But then, the move was made up top, and Martin came up. That was J.F.’s opportunity to take advantage of a bigger role, increased minutes and [greater] responsibility.”

It all happened so fast, Berube never saw it coming. Nevertheless, he was ready for the challenge.

“You never know what to prepare for before the season,” said Berube. “I told myself that, originally, having Jones with me in Manchester, I knew I wouldn’t [play] a lot of games. I just wanted to prove myself every time I would have a chance to go into the net. [But] things changed quickly and I ended up having the net, so it was kind of a big turn for me to go from playing one game every two or three weeks to having back-to-back games.”

“I was ready for it,” added Berube. “Seeing what was going on with L.A., and you never want to see anyone get injured, but once Quick went down and Jones went up, that was my chance to take and I think I took it really [well]. It was good to have that feeling of playing a lot again, like in junior—having my net and feeling the confidence from the team—the players, coaching staff. It was really good to feel that again.”

Berube worked hard while playing the two previous seasons for Kings’ ECHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign, making the most of his time there.

“J.F.’s worked extremely hard over his time with us,” Dillabaugh noted. “He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s been very patient. He’s worked through a couple of years in the ECHL and he prepared himself for an opportunity like that. To his credit, when it came, he was prepared. He took full advantage of it and he made some real big strides forward. It was great for him and great for our team down in Manchester.”

Berube’s two seasons with Ontario turned out to be critical for his development, even though he was never able to grab onto the number one goaltender position and occasionally appeared to be unfocused, a hitch in his game that he alluded to earlier in this story.

Berube also said that the Reign had to split the time between their goalies due to their dual affiliation with the Kings and the Winnipeg Jets.

“It’s kind of hard in the ECHL, especially with Ontario having two [NHL affiliates],” Berube noted. “At that time, Chris Carozzi was with me. Both teams want their goalie to play and I knew that in my second year, we would be splitting time. There would be no number one and number two goalies. That’s the word I got from [head] coach [Jason Christie] when I first went back to Ontario.”

“You just have to share the net and do the best you can to help the team win,” Berube added.

Despite not playing as many games as he, or the Kings, hoped in the 2012-13 season, something clicked for Berube heading into the 2013-14 season.

“The learning curve has definitely spiked in the last few months,” Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi said in October 2013. “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.”

“There’s turning points in people’s careers where you don’t know exactly what happened, but I guess I matured a lot and I understood the game better,” Berube explained. “I knew myself better and I knew what I had to do to reach the next level.”

“I was surrounded by really good people—good coaches, a good strength coach during the summer and I think that’s what really pushed me to realize that I have to do more if I want to reach my goal,” Berube elaborated. “I still have a lot to do, but I think I’m on the right path and I have the right people surrounding me. It’s encouraging to see yourself improve every year.”

Consistency, Strength, Conditioning, Maturity

Dillabaugh pointed to consistency as a major factor in Berube’s improvement.

“The biggest thing for J.F. is the consistency side of things,” Dillabaugh noted. “His first two years in [professional hockey], he didn’t really play the number of games that he or us (sic) anticipated. That was due to different things. Sometimes he was up in Manchester, filling in for an injured guy.”

“I think for him, it was about getting more playing time, more minutes, learning how to manage a bigger workload, finding a way to be consistent and bringing his ‘A’ game every night, giving his team an opportunity to win every night,” Dillabaugh added. “Really, that’s the difference, that consistency, night in and night out.”

As reported earlier, Berube has been back in the gym since early July. Getting stronger and improving his conditioning are critical to his hopes of making it to the NHL someday.

“[Strength and conditioning are] the biggest things [when] moving from junior to professional [hockey],” he emphasized. “Guys are a lot stronger and I wasn’t really a strong, physical goalie. I think I had to do a lot more work in the gym and the Kings really helped me to find the right people.”

“That really guided me into what I need to be and the right shape that I need to be in to play [at the] professional [level] and I think it started from there,” he added. “As soon as I started getting stronger, I felt it in my game, [in terms of] endurance. In back-to-back games, I felt a lot better than I would [have] in previous years.”

Added endurance should help Berube stand up to the rigors of the AHL schedule, which often has teams playing three games in three nights, as alluded to earlier.

“This year, what I want to do is approach every game like it’s a Friday game,” he said. “It’s something that I’m working on this summer—the conditioning side.”

“I think it’s going to help me a lot to be better conditioned [when it comes to] those games,” he added. “I want to be more consistent in those three-in-threes.”

Added maturity has also given Berube’s development a boost.

“Last year was a really big learning year for me, going from a backup goalie to a starting goalie [so suddenly] at the pro level,” he indicated. “It’s really different and I really matured from that.”

“It’s experience, maturity,” he added. “Now I know how to deal with [the tough times]. When I struggle, it’s all about hard work and having the right mindset. That helps me a lot.”

Maturity has also contributed to Berube’s improved strength and conditioning.

“It’s a lot of maturity—knowing yourself and knowing what you have to do to be stronger,” he noted. “There were some points where I was weaker and needed to work on a lot more than my strength. I’ve always been told that I was a really good technical goalie, but on the conditioning side, I needed to do a lot more work. That’s what I did. I did a lot more conditioning [work] than just working on my technique. That helped me, overall, with everything.”

Dillabaugh emphasized that while Berube had a strong 2013-14 season, he must continue to improve and push the pace of that improvement.

“It’s about becoming more efficient,” said Dillabaugh. “It’s about elevating every aspect of your game and being consistent in every aspect of your game. The biggest thing is that he’s got to continue to push ahead. Nothing comes easy at any level. His success has to be built upon. He can’t be satisfied with where he’s at and I know he won’t be. But that’s the biggest thing, not to get complacent, but build off that strong season he had last year.”

“It’s every aspect of his game that we want him to continue to move forward,” added Dillabaugh. “There’s always little things that we work on. For guys who have been with us for a long time, throughout the course of a season, there’s going to be areas of their game that [drop] off [a bit]. That’s where your maintenance work comes in. You’re putting the necessary time into different areas of your game when the opportunity presents itself, and practicing the right way, having that attention to detail in how you’re doing things, and J.F. is no different.”

Raw Audio Interviews

(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):

J.F. Berube During On-Ice Celebration After LA Kings Won The 2014 Stanley Cup Championship, June 13, 2014 (2:05)

J.F. Berube (August 6, 2014; 17:26)

Kim Dillabaugh (2:54)

Frozen Royalty’s J.F. Berube Coverage

Frozen Royalty’s 2014 Off-Season LA Kings Prospects Coverage

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