Recent trips across the pond to Europe have been prosperous for prized Kings prospect Jonathan Bernier
. The first goaltender selected in the 2006 draft, Bernier picked up his first NHL regular season win in between the pipes when the Kings squared off against the Anaheim Ducks in London, England this past September.
Late last week, Bernier was a member of the Team Canada squad that edged out Sweden in overtime on the world’s most prestigious junior hockey stage in Pardubice, Czech Republic.
This trip, however, was not as kind to Bernier as his previous trip to the United Kingdom. Bernier found himself in a role that was unusual for him: backup goaltender. Bernier has been the main man in net since shortly after his major junior hockey debut in the QMJHL for the Lewiston MAINEiacs.
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|WJC Stats: |
44 saves in a 3-0 shutout over the Czech Republic (Dec. 26)
28 saves in Canada’s 4-3 loss to Sweden (Dec. 29)
Had record of 1-1-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in two appearances.
Kings Vision of WJC 700K
Bernier wins debut: The Kings 19-year-old net minder made 26 saves to earn his first NHL victory in the Kings season-opening 4-1 win over the Ducks in London, England.
QMJHL Roster Page
Bernier’s Canadian counterpart, Steve Mason, has also seen time in the NHL. Bernier was only given the opportunity to start two games, with mixed results. The first Bernier started, he made 44 saves in a 3-0 shutout over the Czech Republic on Dec. 26, leading Canada to a Tournament-record 19th straight win.
His second happened to be the first game Team Canada lost in 20 consecutive tournament games. Canada dropped the game to fellow Kings prospect Oscar Moeller and Team Sweden in the third game of the preliminary round. Bernier didn’t see time the rest of the tournament – through no fault of his own. His play was satisfactory in the one goal loss – he turned away 28 of the 32 shots he faced.
“It was really tough to be a number two. It’s tough to know that you’re not the one they like,” Bernier said. “It’s a lesson I’ve got to learn though. You’ve always got to work for what you get.
“Even though it didn’t go my way, the gold medal really made it worth it. Coming back to Canada with gold is just a great feeling.”
Bernier said he noticed a big difference in play between the “Q” and international play. The QMJHL is widely regarded as the most offensively talented of the three major junior leagues, but Bernier has made a name for himself in net. Last season Bernier put up a 26-10-0 record with a 2.58 GAA.
“The players are from a different level in the World Junior Championships,” Bernier said. “Their shots are so much more accurate. They’re faster and with their speed they create so many more scoring chances. It was my third time in international [competition] and I think the hockey gets better each time."
Bernier’s experience in London really turned him on to the team that drafted him two summers ago. He performed well in training camp and an injury to J.S. Aubin gave him the opportunity to start on the league’s opening night – and earn the win.
“It was great,” Bernier said about the win. “What I like about [Los Angeles] is that they are very honest with me. They tell me what I need to do and what I need to work on – they tell me the good and aren’t afraid to tell me the bad.
“They’ve shown me a lot of respect and I can’t help but be impressed by that.”
However, the World Juniors shows that Bernier still has a lot to work on in his game – and this is a fact that even he recognizes.
“I learned a lot when I was there, but I still think it’s the same game. I need to be a little bit more mature in situations. I just need to work on every little detail in my game and try to get better everyday.”
The tournament, and not just the overseas flights, will be good stepping stones for Bernier. It is something that he can look back and build on. He now knows a few things that he can work on so that when next season rolls around, Bernier will have a chance to stick with the big club for the duration of the season.
Hopefully he will get a little bit better everyday while wearing a Kings jersey in the not so distant future.