Along with center Nic Dowd, both products of the 2009 NHL Draft, JF Berube is returning for his fifth camp.
However, two years ago he wasn’t able to participate in full drills because he was coming off hip surgery following a spectacular year in the QMJHL. Now, with two years of pro experience under his belt, the 21-year old French-Canadian is ready to show off more of his skills.
Last season, in 24 games with the Ontario Reign (the Kings’ ECHL affiliate), Berube posted a 2.24 goals against average and .910 save percentage, both improvements from his rookie campaign.
As Reign assistant coach Mark Hardy recently told MayorsManor, everybody was hoping for a deeper playoff run with the club they had in Ontario this year. They won their division for the second straight season, then swept the Utah Grizzlies, but were ultimately eliminated by Idaho in the second round.
With Martin Jones looking to be the starter in Manchester (AHL) once again, it remains unclear at the moment where he’ll be playing next season.
Regardless, here’s seven questions with Berube, aka ‘Hollywood’…
You’ll be joined in camp by Patrik Bartosak, who was just drafted by LA a few weeks ago, and the Kings recently acquired Ben Scrivens in the Jonathan Bernier trade. How closely do you keep up with the other goalies in the system?
“I’ve never heard of [Bartosak]. I’m not a big stats guy, nor am I really curious about other goalies to be honest with you. Of course, when I saw who they drafted though, I kind of looked a little bit and I saw his stats. He seems to be a pretty good goalie, and good for him – he got drafted. I’m really happy for him and it’s going to be fun to be competing with him…But, my main goal is to move on to the American League next season. So, at the end of the day, the only thing I have control over is my own game. I’m trying not to get out too much of my game by looking at those things. Everyone heard what happened. Now it’s done and all I have to do is focus ahead and make sure I’m ready for training camp.”
What do you feel is better for your development this coming season, getting regular starts as the number one guy in the ECHL or backing up – maybe even splitting time – with Jones in Manchester?
“I think that the coaching staff in LA have a better answer for that. I’m just going to play where they tell me to play and show them that I’m a goalie. Like I said, the only thing I have control over is my own game. If I perform well, I think I deserve to be where I’m going to be. I’m trying not to see the big picture, I just want to work hard and keep developing every practice.”
Your former teammate, Colton Yellow Horn, recently signed over in Europe. We’ve also seen other guys go over there the past few summers. Is that something you would ever consider?
“Yeah, I saw Yellow signed in Austria. He had been talking a bit about it, going overseas. It’s a good opportunity for him to go there. I guess if he made that decision, it means he thought about it and I’m sure he took the best decision for his career. For me, my goal is to reach the NHL. So, until I see that there are no more open doors, I’m not even going to think about it. It’s funny, we see a lot of guys leaving and talking about going overseas, but it never crosses my mind. My goal is to play in the NHL and I’m going to do everything possible to get there.”
You’re now one of the veterans at Dev Camp, what do you try to take away from the experience each year?
“It’s fun to be there and work on our game a little bit and see where our development is during the summer.. Plus, it’s hard to find ice sometimes during the summer, so it’s a huge advantage to be there for a week of camp. Just be there and talk with the coaches to see what they want us to work on during the summer, it’s big. After that, I come back and work with my personal trainer on some stuff that they want me to improve on.”
How do you balance the personal improvements in your game this past season with the way things ended in the playoffs?
“I wasn’t really focusing on my stats this year, I just wanted to be consistent night in and night out. I think I did a really good job of coming in ready and prepared for every game that I played. I don’t think I had any ups and downs, I was on my A-game every night. I think that was the biggest thing for me, to prove that I could be a consistent goalie and give my team a chance to win every game…At the same time, I don’t know what happened in the second round. I was really frustrated when we got eliminated. I wanted to keep moving on and I think we didn’t get where we should have been. We had the team to go all the way and it kind of sucks when you know you have a chance to get there and some games weren’t as good as we could have played. It was a little frustrating on that point, because when you know you have a really good team you want to put it on the ice and show people.”
Shortly after that, you were back in Los Angeles as part of the ‘Black Aces’ during the Kings playoff run. What was that experience like?
“It was really fun. I got to meet some people – not coaching staff but in the office, some people that I hadn’t meet yet. So, it was fun to meet those people and really feel 100% sort of part of the team. I also had the chance too to practice twice with the Kings. It was fun to be around the guys and they welcomed all the Black Aces with open arms. It’s a classy organization and they do everything they possibly can to make us feel comfortable. Even though it’s at the end of the season and they want us to be serious, they did a good job of balancing being serious and having fun too.”
With guys coming in from college, various junior leagues, etc., who are you most looking forward to seeing and catching up with at camp?
“I guess just everyone. I’m not really someone who likes to hang out with just one person, I like to be in a group. I like having fun with all the guys so I don’t really have any preference. I just like to be around the guys, it’s such a tight family when you get to play on a hockey team and get to know some new people. That’s what I like about hockey, just the relationships we have between the guys. There’s a good group of guys in Manchester, or with the Kings, or wherever the guys are coming from. So, it’s fun, it’s always exciting.”
Next in the series, we’ll check in with a guy Berube played with at the end of the season for a bit, defenseman Nick Ebert.
In the meantime, here’s a list of the full Development Camp roster and schedule.