Finally, the NHL is almost ready to call upon Jonathan Bernier. For real this time and he's ready.
The Kings drafted the 6-0, 185 lb goaltender 11th overall in 2006 and expected that he would be the man between the pipes for the Kings for many years to come. While fellow highly regarded prospects Carey Price and Steve Mason have made an impact in the NHL things haven't gone quite as smoothly for Bernier.
2008-09 proved to be a learning experience for the goaltender who saw things come so easily for him as a junior goaltender with the QMJHL's Lewiston MAINEiacs. Posting respectable numbers (2.40 GAA, .914 SV%) with the AHL's Manchester Monarchs, Bernier was solid but unspectacular and also somewhat inconsistent.
But the goalie with the hybrid stand-up/butterfly style has certainly turned a corner in 2009-10. Bernier has been electric with the Monarchs this season, posting a 17-10-4 record, 2.05 GAA, and .938 SV%. He's been a brick wall, stealing games and posting shutouts (he has 4 this year so far).
It is clear that Bernier is as close to NHL-ready as an AHL goalie can be. Unfortunately for him, while he was grooming himself in the minors for the past year and a half, Jonathan Quick has emerged as a legitimate tender in L.A., and Erik Ersberg is dependable in a role as backup. Quick is under contract for another 3 seasons, while Ersberg has 1 more year left on his deal.
Eventually the Kings will have to make room for Bernier. While Quick has been solid, he's no Martin Brodeur, Ryan Miller, or Roberto Luongo. Bernier has that type of upside and so he brings the real possibility that he could improve the Kings team if given the chance.
If Jonathan Bernier keeps this up the Kings will have no choice but to make room for him on their NHL roster.