10 days ago, the Los Angeles Kings re-signed netminder Peter Budaj to a one-year extension, and for good reason.
At 34-14-4-1, the Ontario Reign are second in the AHL‘s Pacific Division and well on their way to defending their Calder Cup crown. A huge reason for the Reign’s success has been the outstanding play of netminder Peter Budaj, who has gone 32-10-4 with a low 1.65 goals-against average and a save percentage of .932.
Budaj’s success this season, in fact, has earned him not only an all-star selection but a brief call-up to the Kings.
Regarding said extension, Kings Goaltending Development coach Dusty Imoo told me how thrilled he was for Budaj.
“I was very happy for him,” said Imoo. “He went through a lot last year, and it has taken belief and hard work on his part to show everyone that he still has the goods. And he has done it in a huge way. He earned it.”
But in just one year, Budaj has come a long way.
In 19 games with the St. John’s IceCaps last season, Budaj had a year to forget going 0-9-6 with a 3.55 goals-against average and a lowly .888 save percentage. Dusty Imoo was there with Budaj serving as the club’s goaltending development coach.
“Sometimes as goalies, we lose the feel, or mojo if you will, and I think Peter just had one of those years,” Imoo told me in December. “Through it all, Peter was a trooper and constantly worked with me in trying to find his game. This season I think he came into camp with no contract and a healthy pressure to earn a spot, and prove to himself that he can still play.”
With the departures of netminders Jean-Francois Berube and Patrik Bartosak, Peter Budaj was looked at to hold the fort in Ontario. He has done that and then some, and he has deservedly been rewarded for it.
Perhaps next season, we will see Budaj in Los Angeles on a more regular basis.