Considering the impressive numbers he put up as a first-year pro with the ECHL's Alaska Aces, it's really no surprise that goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux is climbing the ladder.
Lamoureux, who turns 25 on Aug. 20, impressed Buffalo Sabres
brass at a prospects camp last month and was rewarded with a one-year contract. The Grand Forks, N.D., native went 33-16-2 with a 2.29 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage. He also set an ECHL record with eight shutouts.
The next likely stop for Lamoureux will be the Portland Pirates in the American Hockey League -- just one step away from where the undrafted goalie wants to be.
"You work to play in the NHL someday," Lamoureux told NHL.com. "My first year of pro, my goal was to get a two-way deal with an NHL team and that was what I was able to accomplish."
As sharp as Lamoureux was during the regular season, it may have been his performance in the ECHL playoffs that caught Buffalo's attention. In 21 appearances for Alaska, Lamoureux went 15-6 with a 1.95 GAA and a .934 save percentage. He helped the Aces reach the Kelly Cup Finals, where they lost to the South Carolina Stingrays in seven games.
"Anytime you get a phone call and someone wants to take a serious look at you, you've got to show up and play well," Lamoureux said. "I was just coming off our playoff run (with Alaska). I didn't have too much time to get prepared for it, so I just wanted to play real solid and work hard. I felt pretty good. I wasn't lights out by any means, but I felt I was real consistent throughout the week."
While he's happy to be moving up, Lamoureux admitted he still thinks about the 4-2 loss the Aces suffered on home ice in Game 7. Alaska had fought back from a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven series to take it to the limit, but couldn't find a way to win a third straight game against the Stingrays.
"I'm extremely excited to be taking the next step in my career, but it's always going to sting," Lamoureux said of the loss. "I'm always going to want to be known as a player that's been able to win at every level. That series was a battle. We were down 3-1 but were able to force a Game 7. Maybe we just kind of ran out of gas at the end. But you just use that as motivation to try to work towards a championship the next season."
It remains to be seen how much playing time Lamoureux will receive in Portland, which currently hosts the highly touted Jhonas Enroth
. A second-round draft choice in 2006, Enroth won 26 games and posted a 2.75 GAA in 58 appearances for Buffalo's top affiliate last season. Clearly, Lamoureux is going to have to earn his playing time. It's a challenge he relishes.
"Their top prospect in the whole organization right now is Jhonas," Lamoureux said. "He's a great goaltender, and he's certainly going to get the opportunity right out of the gate. But I feel like I'm that caliber as well. I think I can be a No. 1 goalie in the American League this year. But if I don't get that opportunity, I'm going to play well in the games I get and make sure our team in Portland makes the playoffs. Whatever role they need me to play, that's what I'm going to do."
Of course, none of this could have been possible for Lamoureux had he not made the most of the opportunity the Aces gave him in the ECHL. As he reflects on his time at hockey's Double-A level, he has nothing but fond memories -- and the confidence of knowing he has the tools to be a No. 1 goalie.
"I think I can be a No. 1 goalie in the American league this year. But if I don't get that opportunity, I'm going to play well in the games I get and make sure our team in Portland makes the playoffs. Whatever role they need me to play, that's what I'm going to do."
-- Jean-Philippe Lamoureux
"I think it was huge," Lamoureux said of his time in the ECHL. "I was able to stay in one spot the whole year. As a player, it's hard to maintain good development if you're moving around a lot. I had 72 starts. That's just real valuable and gives me confidence that I can carry the load. In doing it, I probably did it under the most difficult travel schedule in hockey. It's just a real confidence boost."
Herbers moves up
-- Ian Herbers
, who guided the Johnstown Chiefs for the past two seasons, was named this week as assistant coach of the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals. Herbers guided the Chiefs to an overall record of 73-60-11.
Herbers becomes the fourth ECHL bench boss this summer to receive a promotion, joining Glen Gulutzan (Las Vegas/Texas), Jared Bednar
(South Carolina/Abbotsford) and Keith McCambridge
"I am very excited about the new opportunity in Milwaukee," Herbers said in a statement. "The Admirals have been consistently one of the top teams in the AHL because of the talent and staff that Nashville has assembled. I am looking forward to the challenges of helping to develop the players in the Nashville Predators
Around the ECHL
-- The Kalamazoo Wings have agreed to affiliation deals with the Philadelphia Flyers
and San Jose Sharks
. The K-Wings also signed veteran forward Sam Ftorek. ... The Gwinnett Gladiators signed forwards Dan Sullivan
and Tim Hartung and defenseman Blake Cosgrove. ... G Beau Erickson
has signed with the Reading Royals, who renewed their affiliation with the Toronto Maple Leafs
. ... South Carolina agreed to terms with D Zach Jones and F Dain Prewitt. ... C Tyler Burton
and D Steve Vanoosten signed with the Stockton Thunder. ... The Ontario Reign signed forwards Denny Johnston and Doug Spooner. ... Veteran forward Sean Collins
is returning to the Wheeling Nailers. Forwards Chris Cloud and Andrew Lord
and defenseman Nathan Schwartzbauer also signed with the club. ... The Idaho Steelheads signed rookies Darrell May
and Matt Crowell. ... Alaska acquired the rights to forward Justin Johnson from the Cincinnati Cyclones in exchange for the rights to defenseman Doug Krantz
Contact Brian Compton at: email@example.com