He's a goalie.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Nationality||Draft Year/Position||Current League||2014 Rank|
||3/29/1993||CZE||2013/146th overall (5th)
My job is to push him. One day I’ll try to take his spot.
Patrik Bartosak said this about current Los Angeles Kings starting goaltender Jonathan Quick about a week ago, but you'd be forgiven for thinking it was about JF Berube, or Martin Jones. Due to a combination of circumstances, timing, and a low draft slot, Bartosak has tended to be a bit of a forgotten name in the goaltending pecking order. The "next guy" has always been someone else, even if in recent history being the "next guy" after Quick has meant a ticket to another city. And yet! This season, it's Bartosak who is the highest-ranked netminder in the Top 25 Under 25.
The only problem for the 22-year-old Czech goalie is that he could, conceivably, be a backup yet again! The Kings went out and signed Jhonas Enroth, providing a steady roadblock for what many assumed would be Berube's backup job. That would have made Bartosak's development plan a lot more clear, as he would have almost certainly started the lion's share of games in Ontario. Instead, Berube will probably be on his way back to the minors after camp, and if he clears waivers, Bartosak once again will be fighting for a starting job. (Peter Budaj, I don't know if you're going to stick around here.)
Bartosak's moved up steadily through the rankings for a reason, though. Two of them. One is consistent performance. Bartosak put up a .919 save percentage in 28 games last season, edging out Berube (.913), who put up a less-than-impressive .898 during Manchester's run to a Calder Cup. After two excellent seasons as starter for the WHL's Red Deer Rebels, Bartosak wasn't all that fazed by his new surroundings last year, and when he got some surprise action after Berube was injured in the Calder Cup Final, Bartosak excelled, stopping 80 of 86 shots in 170 minutes.
Eventually, Bartosak was in the Monarchs' net when the final buzzer sounded.
The other reason: athleticism. The question in Bartosak's development has never been his ability, but in the fact that he was known as an unorthodox goalie (we had more on that last year in last year's Top 25 entry) who needed to be groomed and given consistent habits. Last year, though, Bartosak largely succeeded in matching his raw ability to some new organization-approved preparation and routines. Here's goaltending coach Bill Ranford on how Bartosak progressed last year:
He cleaned up his game and became more consistent in his habits, and that’s what we were trying to [impart]... We want him to be more consistent in his depth. We want him to be more consistent in his habits and making sure he was post-saving on every play, and just having more detail to his game, and with that consistency, the results were there.
The signing of Enroth was bad news for Berube, but it's only bad news for Bartosak if he isn't able to thrive and gain a larger foothold; after all, he was looking at a full season in Ontario either way. You'd think that even a 50-50 split with Berube could give Bartosak a chance to get a leg up, grab the LA backup job in 2016-17, and get a little bit closer to pushing for the spot he was really after.
That spot is, of course, not for sale right now; Quick has seven more years on his contract. If Bartosak waits around, the chances of LA trading Quick go from "zero" to "almost zero," but if he gets held up, he can follow the Bernier/Jones path. Which has earned both of those guys a situation they can be happy with.