As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race. LA Kings prospect JF Berube hopes to prove this old adage true.
While some prospects fast-track themselves towards a NHL job, Berube has taken a more scenic path. In Jonathan Quick’s first professional season, the goalie saw NHL action, something Berube hasn’t seen as he is now into his fourth pro campaign.
Even his old crease-mate, Martin Jones, was farther along in the same point in his career. Jones cracked the Kings’ lineup in his fourth year, while spending the previous three as the starter in the AHL, something Berube didn’t do until midway into his third season.
Comparisons aside, Berube has done exactly what he has needed to do to stay relevant in the Kings organization – progress. Each year, Berube has made steps towards becoming a NHL goalie and this season is no different.
When Jones was called up in November 2013, Berube assumed the role of starter for the Manchester Monarchs. Since then, the French-Canadian hasn’t looked back, securing his role as the undisputed number-one guy for head coach Mike Stothers. In the process, he’s also earning the trust and respect of his teammates in the locker-room.
“He’s been awesome – he really has,” said Stothers on Berube. “He’s a battler, he’s a competitor, [and] he’s been consistent. I think his game has just come so far. He’s a leader on our team, and we just feel real comfortable with him in net.”
Perhaps the most important takeaway for Stothers is the consistency Berube has found in his game. After not always being the top guy, Berube has to adjust to a heavy work-load, which saw him play three games in three nights often last year.
“I think that comes with experience. I know how to prepare myself now,” the Montreal Juniors alum explained. “I know when I don’t feel good, when I don’t feel as sharp, I know what to do to put me back into the mindset I need to be to be sharp. It’s all little details I need to keep doing.”
The added consistency has allowed the netminder to put up solid numbers for his team this season, who is currently second in the Eastern Conference in the AHL. Through 31 appearances, Berube’s record sits at 22-5-3 with a .922 save percentage and 1.98 goals against average. Those 22 wins are good for tops in the league.
In net, Berube plays a style comparable to former King and current Toronto Maple Leaf, Jonathan Bernier. A fundamental goalie, positioning, angles, and technique are the bread and butter of Berube’s game.
If shooters are looking for a scouting report, it may be best to stay away from his glove side. Lightning quick reactions with his left arm have robbed many players of what they thought would be sure-fire goals. Berube also knows when his glove hand is hot, prompting him to deliver this gem of a quote to us last year.
“(My) glove was hot. I don’t know. They should have tried somewhere else because it would not go in glove (side),” Berube said post game.
Progress aside, there is still work to be put in for Berube. At times, pucks tend to squeeze through him and find the back of the net, even when he gets a piece of the initial shot. Fortunately, this is a fixable trait that would hopefully only require slightly tightening up the holes Berube leaves when stopping a shot.
Though there may not be a spot in the foreseeable future on the Kings roster, with Quick and Jones secure of their positions for the time being, if Berube continues to improve upon his game, the goalie will likely find his way into a NHL crease sooner rather than later.
After a long journey, with several bumps along the way, Berube can sit back and reflect on the path that has lead him to where he is today, while remaining weary of becoming complacent with his game.
“It’s fun to see where I came from. I think I’ve improved my game a lot. You learn through adversity. I think that was the biggest thing for me. I think it’s the best thing that happened to me. I wouldn’t change anything,” said Berube with a smile. “When you go through adversity, you always come back stronger. It’s all little things that you do that no one sees that brings you where I’m at right now. I just want to keep pushing forward – I know I have a long way to go still.”
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