Jonathan Bernier will be perhaps the most-watched player in Kings training camp. Off the ice, he might not be as easy to recognize as in previous years. Bernier buzzed off most of his hair, the result, he said, of a minor accident that caused him to have a couple stitches in his head. On the ice, though, Bernier looks familiar, making saves as the Kings’ top goalie prospect.
The presumption by many pundits, going into camp, is that Bernier will bypass Erik Ersberg and become the Kings’ No. 2 goalie, behind Jonathan Quick. Terry Murray has declared the competition open and Bernier, who was the top goalie in the AHL last season, might end up playing 25 games with the Kings if he beats out Ersberg. This is Bernier’s fifth training camp with the Kings, but the first in which he is truly a favorite to make the team.
“I still have the same approach,” Bernier said. “I want to be the best I can be and work as hard as I can. All of my years, I think, have helped me for this training camp. I’m obviously more confident after playing those three games last year. I think that gave me a little boost for the whole summer and coming into this year.”
Bernier said he didn’t change much in his training this summer, but did spend considerable time with goalie coach Marco Marciano. Coming off a season in which he mostly dominated AHL competition, Bernier smiled slightly when asked if he thought he had anything left to prove at the AHL level.
“I don’t know,” Bernier said. “That’s not for me to decide, I guess. It’s from up top. Hopefully I’ve done what I needed to do, and they think I’m ready to play at this level.”
Some league observers have predicted even more for Bernier, surmising that it’s only a matter of time before he rises to the No. 1 spot with the Kings. That spot, clearly, is now held by Quick, and Bernier said he has no problems with Murray’s frequent declarations that Quick is the No. 1 goalie and that the spot is not open for the taking.
“Yeah, I respect that,” Bernier said. “He earned his spot and he has been tremendous for this team. He brought them to the playoffs, so I have a lot of respect for him. For me, I’ve just got to do my job and not really worry about that.”
If Bernier does make the team, his challenge isn’t necessarily done. In his past two seasons, Bernier has played 54 and 58 games, respectively, for the Monarchs. Ascending to the No. 2 spot with the Kings, under Murray’s plan, would have Bernier playing less than half of those totals this season.
“If he’s that guy. It is a big adjustment,” Murray said. “He just has to fall back on his experience in the game. When he’s going into Lewiston [junior hockey] as a youngster, he’s doing that. He is that backup guy, and he gets himself ready and adjusts to that rotation. As you take the next step, you go through that process again. So I believe, if he’s the goaltender in that position, he will have no problem making the adjustment.”
Bernier said he didn’t believe the adjustment would be a problem.
“Yeah, obviously it’s going to be a good test for me, going back from 60 to 20 or 25 games,” Bernier said, “but you never know what can happen. I’ve just got to go day by day, and game by game, and just do my game and what I can do. The rest, I can’t control.”