The American Hockey League’s Manchester Monarchs have had much success since joining the league back in 2001. The Los Angeles Kings top minor league affiliate has had one of the top developmental organizations in recent history, only missing the playoffs once in the past 13 seasons. No question that the Kings have one of the best scouting staffs in the National Hockey League, and with names like Brown, Martinez, Pearson, and Toffoli, it’s proven that the organization has a knack for finding NHL ready players though the draft.
Over the years the Kings scouting staff has put together a serious effort to create organizational depth at the goaltending position. The Kings are well supported with starter Jonathan Quick, and backup Martin Jones, but the talent for the team does not stop there.
Monarchs starting goaltender Jean-Francois Berube is the next best prospect in the AHL, and is the most NHL ready. The 6’-1” 177 pound native of Repentigny, Quebec was selected by the Kings in the fourth round (95th overall) back in 2009. After an impressive year in 2010-11 with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey Leagues Montreal Juniors, He posted 32 wins (ranked #2), 2.60 goals against average (ranked 4th), .902 save percentage (ranked 6th), and three shutouts (ranked 7th), which made it clear to the Kings that he was ready for the next level.
Berube signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Kings in May of 2011 after his third season in the QMJHL and was sent to the East Coast Hockey League’s Ontario Reign to start his professional career. With the Reign, he appeared in 61 games posting a 32-19-6 record, a goals against of 2.55, and .908 save percentage. With the Kings trading goaltender Ben Scrivens to the Edmonton Oilers in January of 2014, the Kings called up Martin Jones who was the starter in Manchester to backup Jonathan Quick, which created a starting roll in the AHL for Berube, and his goal of getting closer to the NHL.
It’s been no secret that Berube thrives on playing more games in the crease, and not in the backup roll, and he proved that last season with the Monarchs, where he was the backbone of an outstanding team that was second in the AHL with a 48-19-3-6 record. In his rookie season he appeared in 48 games posting a 28-17-2 record, a goals against average of 2.37 and .913 save percentage. This season in 17 games with the Monarchs, he has a record of 10-4-2, with a goals against of 2.06, and .916 save percentage.
The Kings and the goaltending depth in the organization seems to be “bottle-necking” with the length of contract to Jonathan Quick, and the uncertainty of backup Martin Jones, who is set to become an unrestricted free-agent this coming summer. This creates a very interesting question for the Kings moving forward? Do the Kings trade Jones who might warrant a significant increase in pay that the organization my not be able to cover with an already tight salary cap, and bring up a ready, cap friendly Berube to backup Quick?
Should be very interesting to see what Kings general manager Dean Lombardi is going to do moving forward with ten players on the current team roster that will be looking for new contracts. Also will be more interesting to see if Berube and his outstanding development through the organization will finally get his shot in the NHL.