Some guy likes putting players on NHL 11 covers
So here is Bernier! From http://theheadcrusher.picturepush.com
People were arguing about his ES vs total save percentage, the value of his draft position, his position stuck behind Quick, his junior (CHL and WJC) production, etc. But for this post I want to specifically look at his production in the AHL. So follow along after the jump if that interests you.
Jonathan Bernier played a starters load in the AHL at age 20 and put up reasonable but not special numbers with 54 GP and a 0.914 save percentage. He followed this up however, with an outstanding 21 year old season in the AHL playing 58 GP and putting up a whopping 0.939 save percentage to win the AHL goaltender of the year (Aldege "Baz" Bastien Memorial Award). To have such success in a professional league, while playing against men, at such a young age impressed me great. However, two questions seemed to arise around this success:
- Is AHL success relevant when attempting to predict future NHL success at goaltending?
- Is age relevant when looking at goaltending production (particularly at lower levels)?
I have decided to look at this in by looking at the Baz Memorial winners.
Here are the winners of the Baz Memorial Award since 1990 (from the AHL website)
|2011-12||Yann Danis||Oklahoma City Barons|
|2010-11||Brad Thiessen||Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins|
|2009-10||Jonathan Bernier||Manchester Monarchs|
|2008-09||Cory Schneider||Manitoba Moose|
|2007-08||Michael Leighton||Albany River Rats|
|2006-07||Jason LaBarbera||Manchester Monarchs|
Hartford Wolf Pack
Grand Rapids Griffins
Grand Rapids Griffins
St. John’s Maple Leafs
So that list doesn't look to impressive does it? It has Felix the Cat, Legace, Ryan Miller and a couple other good names, but for the most part they are outnumbered by either NHL busts or AHL lifers. By my count there are 7 NHL goalies with NHL success from the 20 award winners from 1989-1990 to 2008-2009 (the year before Bernier won): Potvin, Carey (your call whether you would include him), Legace, Biron, Roloson, Miller, and Schneider (also your call whether you would include him). That is a 35% success rate, which is pretty shitty.
But what happens if we look at only those goalies who achieved this success at a young age? Here are the goalies who won the award at age 22 or younger (age as of January 1st of the playing season):
- Felix Potvin, age 20
- Corey Hirsch, age 20
- Jim Carey, age 20
- Jonathan Bernier, age 21
- Martin Biron, age 21
- Corey Schneider, age 22
- Manny Legace, age 22
- Scott Langkow, age 22
Now instead of a list of 20 we have a list of 7 (plus Bernier). From this list, 5 of the 7 have gone on to have successful NHL careers (yes you can question Carey and Schneider). All of a sudden the 35% success rate has gone up to a 71.4% success rate, more than doubling.
This list kind of reminds me of Hobey Baker winners. In general it is an unimpressive list, but when you only take those players that won it at a young age you end up with a short list of guys like Paul Kariya. So does winning this award at 21 guarantee Bernier NHL success? No, definitely not. But it is a good sign.
As I said at the beginning, I don't think the Leafs should be going out to acquire Bernier because he simply isn't proven enough at the NHL level. That being said, I have been impressed by everything he has done up to the NHL (and the age at which he did these things) and feel that his NHL performance thus far has been average. I feel like he probably has a reasonable chance at NHL success and a team with an ageing starter (like Calgary or the Devils) would be smart to take a hard look at him.