The Los Angeles Kings sent backup goaltender Martin Jones to Boston in the trade for Milan Lucic. Although Jones was flipped by Boston to San Jose, the fact remained that a vacant spot opened up behind starter Jonathan Quick. The Kings and general manager Dean Lombardi opted to go to the free agent market and sign Swedish netminder Jhonas Enroth to a one-year deal.
So what will Enroth bring to the Kings and how much of an impact can he have as a backup?
The 27-year-old has been in North America for seven years. He was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the second round (46th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He spent the majority of his first three seasons in the Sabres organization with the Portland Pirates in the AHL. He then spent the following three and a half seasons as the backup for Ryan Miller.
When Miller got traded to the St. Louis Blues during the 2013-2014 season, Enroth was promoted to the starting role. Buffalo had entered the rebuild phase and wasn’t icing particularly competitive teams. Enroth did a solid job when you take into account what he had playing in front of him. He finished the season with a 2.82 GAA and a .911 SV% in 28 games.
He was the starter once again as the Sabres began 2014-15. The team was absolutely horrible, but Enroth did what he could to keep them in games. He was bombarded with shots night after night, but was by far the Sabres best player.
Enroth was a little too good for the Sabres as they needed to make sure that they were going to finish last in the standings. Enroth was traded to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Anders Lindback. Enroth picked up 13 wins in 37 games for the Sabres with a 3.27 GAA and a .903 SV%. The numbers really doesn’t show the whole story here, as anyone who watched the Sabres last year would agree that without Enroth the team would have taken even fewer points than the 54 they ended up with.
Enroth didn’t seem to settle in that well in Dallas at first, but he ended the season with four straight wins. In all he played in 13 games for the Stars, picking up five wins with a 2.38 GAA and a .906 SV%. Enroth then became a free agent, and ended up signing a one-year deal worth $1.25 million with the Kings on July 1.
He’s not the biggest goalie, listed at 5’ 10” and 166 pounds, so he relies heavily on his positioning and his athleticism. His rebound control could use some work, even though he has a knack of coming up with some highlight-reel saves on the secondary scoring chances. It’s still unclear if he can ever be a starter in the NHL, but he’s a reasonable backup that can take some of the pressure of Quick but still push him to become better.
Enroth played in 50 games last season and was unfortunate to be on a sub-par team like the Sabres, but with the defensive discipline of the Kings, his numbers will improve.
Quick, who is the undisputed No. 1 and one of the best goaltenders in the league, played in 72 games last season for the Kings. In a perfect world, you would like to lower that number a bit without sacrificing too many points. But if Enroth could come in and start between 15 to 20 games it could help Quick stay fresh and that could make a huge difference if the Kings make it back into the playoffs.
With the defensive qualities of the Kings, the team allowed the fewest goals in the Pacific Division for the second straight season, Enroth will be given a great opportunity to showcase his skills. He’s been successful when playing in front of some top-level talent with the Swedish national team, winning a World Championship gold medal in 2013. He was also voted the best goaltender of the tournament after posting a 1.15 GAA and a .956 SV% in seven games.
Enroth will be a good addition to the Kings. He has no problem being a backup and will be ready when given the chance. Don’t let his small stature fool you; he’s good moving from side to side and has a great glove.