Earlier this week we checked in with Kings prospect Kyle Clifford, getting his take on the just completed evaluation camp for Team Canada’s World Jr. team.
Today, we move to the other end of the ice. Fellow Kings prospect JF Berube steps away from the goaltending crease and shares his thoughts on the camp…plus, a few notes on being drafted, his UFC-inspired mask and his plans for the future.
While JF didn’t have any horrific travel stories to report – read about Kyle’s experience here – he did open up on what it’s like to be part of a Kings organization currently stacked with prospects between the pipes.
Of course, he also provided a few opinions on the other Kings draft picks at the camp too – guys like Brayden Schenn, Tyler Toffoli and Nic Deslauriers.
Yet, national pride is at the heart of this story. Most Canadians tend to think the game of hockey belongs to them. So, losing the gold medal to the U.S. at last year’s WJC tournament had to sting – especially considering Canada’s recent domination, having won five straight golds coming into the action.
To make matters worse, the silver medal came on home ice in Saskatchewan. This year, the U.S. enters as the defending champions on their own turf, in Buffalo, NY. That whole dynamic seemed like a great place to start…
After watching Canada lose to the U.S. last year at the World Jrs. How important is it to you personally to get some sort of revenge in Buffalo this year?
Back in the Q (Quebec Major Juniors) you played with Jake Allen, who was one of the Team Canada goalies at last year’s World Jrs. Did he help you prepare for the experience in any way?
He spoke with me a little bit just before the camp. He told me to do my thing, don’t try to push too hard. He said I needed to stay who I am and be myself, just play hard.
While it’s only an evaluation camp, your team lost both scrimmage games to the white team. With confidence being such an important part of the game…and the fact that goaltending is so mental…how do you not let that mess with you and just shake it off?
Of course, you never want to lose the game. So, that part is no fun. But, I think I did pretty well in both games. The first one was more difficult to get the feel of things because I didn’t have a lot of ice time during the summer. So, that first day was kinda hard for me. After that, by the third period of the first game, I was getting into it and starting to find my rhythm. In this camp losing wasn’t really important, it was more about the impression you gave to the coaches.
Regarding the impression you left - if you could go back and do anything differently, what would it be?
I wouldn’t change anything. I was right where I wanted to be. I showed them who I am.
The Kings had five other prospects in camp with you. When all the players were divided up, two of them were on your team (team red) - Tyler Toffoli (’10 draft pick, second round) and Linden Vey (’09, fourth round). From your perspective, tell us about their performance…
I think both of them did pretty well. They were in the other team’s face all game. They were pretty intense and that’s what the coaches are looking for. Especially Toffoli, he had some good moves on the breakaway. He was one of the best guys on our team.
Both of them are very skilled players, especially Schenner. He’s got good hands, good speed, has a really good vision of the game and makes great passes. For Kyle, he’s ‘in your face’ hockey. He’s always intense, finishes his checks and he’s a pretty good ‘big guy.’ He made several nice plays, had good chances on the net and had two goals too (note: actually, one goal and three assists). They were both strong for their team.
On defense, team white also had Nic Deslauriers (’09, third round). He’s a guy you’ve played against in the Q, any impressions of him from camp?
I think he looked good offensively and defensively. He just played his game. He’s someone who can move the puck from one side to the other and we saw that in camp. He’s pretty solid.
Of that group of five, in your opinion, who was the most impressive at camp?
It’s hard to say. They all impressed me. Sometimes you see people that don’t show up to camp in shape or whatever. I think they were all in shape, showed they were ready and they all gave a good impression.
Besides your big save on Schenn in the second game, was there any one play or series where one of those guys did something that you remember shaking your head saying ‘Wow!’?
I know Deslauriers did one play where he moved the puck from his end to the other net. Other than that, I can’t really remember any one play. When I stopped Schenn, I didn’t even know it was him at the moment. He came up to me after and we were laughing about it.
Off ice, you guys went on a whale watching trip for some team bonding. How did that go?
That was great. It was a good experience. I had never been whale watching before, so it was pretty impressive. I think all the guys enjoyed it. There were some pretty big waves though. I didn’t think I would be sea sick, but my head was swirling quite a bit. I heard somebody got sick too, but I didn’t see who it was.
Last summer was also pretty memorable for you, being drafted by the Kings in the fourth round. Did you have any idea they were interested in selecting you?
I had no idea. Kim (Dillabaugh), one of the Kings assistant goalie coaches, was at a previous Team Canada goalie camp I attended. However, I didn’t know he was working for the Kings. After being drafted I was excited to find out he was with the team. I thought that might be the connection. I only remember meeting the Quebec scout, Denis Fugere, one time during my draft year. So, I was pretty surprised.
What were some of your first thoughts when you found out you had been drafted?
The day I was drafted I didnt know what was going on. Of course, it’s a dream come true. But, you don’t know what to think. You dont know how to react. It was like living in a dream. About two or three days after that the reality set in and I started thinking ‘I better work really hard because it’s difficult to make it to the NHL.’
Do you remember how old you were when thoughts like ”I want to try and get drafted by an NHL team someday” started creeping into your head?
I think it started when I was in midget AAA. I was cut from my team about two or three weeks after the season started. I didn’t have a team. I said ‘I want to be a hockey player!’ I knew I needed to work hard to prove to them that I could be a good goalie. From there, I was invited to a junior camp. So, it probably really started two or three years ago.
You had a knee injury at the Kings Developmental Camp a few months ago. Even though you were limited to off ice activities, were you able to take any positives away from the experience?
Being off the ice I had the chance to observe the other goalies and the other players that were there. Some of the pros were there too, so I was watching how all the guys were acting together.
While you were in LA for camp, NHL free agency opened on July 1st. Were some of the guys caught up in all the buzz surrounding the Kings possibly signing Ilya Kovalchuk?
Of course. I remember guys watching the TV to get updates whenever we had a chance. Everybody was wondering what was going on. The main focus was on the camp though.
There are so many goaltenders in the Kings pipeline right now - Bernier, Jones, Zatkoff, etc. What do you do to try and stand out and get noticed?
You just do your thing. You know you were drafted for a reason, because you’re a good goalie. We’re all different in some sort of way. You just do your thing, don’t change your style of play. Guys like Quick and Bernier are so good, but we all have our own style and there’s a reason why they wanted us – because we’re different. So, just focus on yourself.
Flip it around the other way, have you found any positives in being part of an organization so loaded with netminders?
We’re all young and we’re all growing up together. We’re all learning together. So, I think it’s a good thing to be part of an organization with all these young goalies.
In the limited interaction you’ve had with some of the other goaltending prospects, have you found that you guys can work together to push each other or is it a highly competitive environment?
We’re all working together – it’s such a difficult position. We’re all challenging each other, but in a good way.
Of that group, who do you get along best with?
Going to Manchester last year gave me a chance to get to know Bernier and Zatkoff. They’re the guys I’ve spoken with the most. Bernier lives close to my hometown too. We traveled back home together from Manchester to Quebec and we had a good chat for the whole trip.
What type of advice or mentoring was he able to share with you?
He talked to me about when he was called up with the Kings. He also spoke about his junior year with the Maineiacs and his overall process. He’s a hard worker. He’s a first round draft pick, but he understands that nothing is a given and you have to work to earn it.
It was soon after your junior team (Montreal) was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs that you were sent to Manchester. Were you surprised by that or was it something that had been discussed as a possibility earlier in the year?
No, I was really surprised. We were eliminated and then they called me the day after to tell me that I was flying the next night. So, I didnt really expect that. It was a big surprise for me.
When your junior season ends at some point next spring, are you hoping to get back to Manchester again and have you set any other goals for yourself?
Right now I’m not really thinking about it. I’m just going to focus on my season with Montreal and we’ll see what happens at the end of the year. For now, I just want to focus on my team. I want to be one of the top goalies in the league. I need to have a big season. We’re going to have a good team and we’re a strong contender this year. Personally, I want to be one of the top goalies in the CHL.
Earlier this year you were wearing a mask featuring UFC fighter George St. Pierre (image here). Tell us a little about the reasons behind it and the reaction you’ve received to the mask?
He came to visit our junior team last year and I was pretty impressed with what he had to say. He’s a really good fighter, but he’s not cocky at all. Every day is a fight for him, as a kid he was abused. That’s when he started to do MMA. He’s a role model for me. He always works hard. So, all of that made me want to put him on my mask.
People really like it too. I’ve had a lot of offers to sell it. People were willing to give a lot of money for the mask. But, I’m going to keep it because it’s something that means a lot to me. I’m not sure if he’s seen it yet. But he works with one of my off ice trainers, so I’m trying to get it autographed too.
You’re back home now - what are your plans for the rest of August?
Next Sunday I’m starting camp with my junior team. So, my summer is pretty much over. I’ll have camp in Montreal and then in mid-September I fly back to LA. That’s pretty much it.
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The kid certainly has a lot on his plate right now – possibly playing for Team Canada at the World Juniors, trying to lead Montreal back to the CHL playoffs and wanting to advance through the ranks of a deep Kings system.
With his talent and poise in net continuing to rise, it wouldn’t be that surprising to see him someday fight for a spot on an NHL roster.
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