Monday, May 19, 2008
Here we are talking about the last goalie on our list even though he opened the season for the Kings. The apple of my eye, Jonathan Bernier. He started the pre-season and first 4 regular season games with the Kings before being sent back to his Junior team, the MANIEiacs, out in Lewiston, Maine because he was actually too young to be sent to the Monarchs. In the four regular season games he posted one (1) win, three (3) losses, a 4.03 GAA, and a .864 save percentage. We all know that these numbers weren't his fault; at least I don't. I blame these loses on the weak defense that floundered about in front of him. In that opening game in London, he was stellar in net and I remember thinking to myself that this could be The One. Silly, I know. But, whatever, you know you're thinking the same thing.
While he was in Lewiston he ranked 2nd out of 22 goalies in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He recorded 18 wins, 15 losses, with a 2.73 GAA, and a .908 save percentage. His numbers are actually better than the goalie ranked number one, but Bernier played in just 34 games while the other played in 46 games. The reason he didn't play more games was because he was invited to be in the Russian Super Series for Team Canada where he was one of 3 Canadian goalies and played in 2 games (and replaced Steve Mason, CBJ prospect, halfway through the 2nd period in another) in that rotation. He was then invited to be on the World Junior team, which was held in the Czech Republic for 2008. He played on this squad with Thomas Hickey and Wayne Simmonds. They moved through the tournament only losing once and faced Sweden in the Gold Medal game where they came out the victors in overtime while facing other Kings prospects, Oscar Moller and Niklas Andersen. Bernier was not in net for this last game. He and Steve Mason had been splitting the time and for the medal rounds coach Craig Hartsburg went with Mason. It was interesting how much buzz this situation created in that both goalies were equally capable of being the #1. I'd rather not talk about that because, in the end, it didn't matter. The Canadian boys won the gold medal and they're all better for it.
Going back up to Lewiston, Bernier finished out the rest of the season getting the Defensive Player of the Week from March 3rd to March 9th. He then got Player of the Month for March 2008. But I think the coolest thing about his stay in Lewiston was that he started his own fundraising program for the Maine chapter of the Alzheimer's Association called Bernier's Saves to Remember. Through this program (starting from November 30, 2007) he donated $8 for every save that he made while in a MAINEiacs jersey for the remainder of the 07-08 season. At the end of the season he ended with 758 saves and, with an anonymous donation of $100, the total came out to $6,164.
Update: Please check out the first comment by Q-Girl with her explanation of Bernier of the Russian Super Series and check out her blog Of Moose and Men talking all things QMJHL.
After his team was taken out of the QMJHL playoffs in the first round, he was sent to Manchester to help them in their push for the playoffs and in the first round. The Monarchs ended up being swept by the top AHL team in the league (Providence Bruins) with 3 games going in to the OT frame. You can check out his Monarchs stats here.
As we are all aware, Dean Lombardi is all about “homegrown players” and I wholeheartedly agree with him, which is why my Baby Bernier Watch has been up since the inception of this blog at the beginning of the season. I’m not sure if Bernier is aware just how much he is being counted on to be this franchise’s goaltender for years to come. I feel like the pressure is building even before he’s even found a solid place on the Kings’ roster. I’ve already seen Bernier (#45) jerseys being worn at Staples Center. But I won’t lie; I’ve been one of those fans who is placing much hope in his play between the pipes. The question for next year will be, will Bernier be cultivated some more and find that top spot in Manchester or will he fight his way onto the Kings roster? I would absolutely love to see him with the Kings next year, but only if the defensive core gets their collective asses together. To conclude, I eagerly await his permanent arrival under the California sun, but I definitely don't want my highly touted prospect to be questioned a la Carey Price.