Kings homecoming (part 2): Jeff Zatkoff says he’s where he wants to be after free-agent signing

Jeff Zatkoff knew what he was getting into when he signed a two-season, $1.8-million contract last summer. He understood the job description called for long, thankless hours of hard work during the day followed by extended periods of inactivity during the evening.

Zatkoff took the plunge anyway.

The opportunity was too good to pass up.

Plus, he had a connection to the Kings, who drafted him in the third round (74th overall) in 2006. Goaltending coach Bill Ranford tutored him, mentored him, but couldn’t offer him a single appearance in an NHL game before losing him to the Pittsburgh Penguins as a free agent in 2012.

Zatkoff returned to the Kings as a free agent July 1, after a four-year absence.

“I had interest from other teams, but at the end of the day, this is where I wanted to be,” said Zatkoff, who was 4-7-0 with a 2.79 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 14 games last season with the Stanley Cup champion Penguins.

Zatkoff, 29, isn’t likely to play very many games with the Kings this season. If all goes as planned, Jonathan Quick will play and Zatkoff will sit on the bench. Zatkoff also will work his tail off after practice in case something goes awry with his more accomplished and heralded teammate.

Quick’s backups normally play only a handful of games each season. Jhonas Enroth played 16 games last season and Martin Jones appeared in 15 in 2014-15. Enroth departed as a free agent during the off-season; Jones was traded in the summer of ’15.

“I think you know the situation when you come to L.A.,” Zatkoff said. “You want to play as many games as you can, but at the same time you’re playing behind arguably the best goalie in the league, one of them, anyway. That’s part of the job here.

“You’ve got be able to go in and play when you’re called upon, whether it’s 15 games, 10 games, 20 games, just depending on the circumstance, and be able to provide that leadership in the locker room and be a good teammate and be ready to go when your number is called, and win.

“I know my role here. I just want to do my job.”

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Kings training camp questions (part 4)

4. Who is Jonathan Quick’s backup in goal this season?

Say goodbye to Jhonas Enroth and hello to Jeff Zatkoff. He is a 29-year-old who signed a two-season, $1.8-million contract during the off-season, after going 4-7-0 with a 2.79 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 14 games last season with the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. He spent most of the season playing for the Penguins’ American Hockey League team and was in need of a job at season’s end. He will serve as the third backup in as many seasons for Quick, following Enroth last season and Martin Jones in 2014-15. It’s a lonely job, but somebody’s got to do it. Enroth played only 16 games last season, going 7-5-1, and Jones appeared in only 15 in ’14-15, going 4-5-2. Enroth departed as a free agent during the off-season, signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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Coyotes 2, Kings 1, SO; Kings 3, Coyotes 2.

The Kings and Coyotes played six times last season. Three of the games were decided by one goal; two were decided by two goals; and the other time the Kings decided not to play defense and lost 6-3.

True to their nature –even in the preseason, with rosters full of players who will spend this season in the AHL, ECHL or Canadian junior leagues –the Kings and Coyotes played a pair of one-goal games Thursday. The Coyotes squad that hosted the Kings in Glendale, Arizona, lost 3-2. The Coyotes squad that played in Anaheim a day earlier visited Staples Center and pulled out a 2-1 shootout win.

In Glendale [game summary | event summary], Dustin Penner scored with 49 seconds left in regulation to break a 2-2 tie. Tyler Toffoli had a goal and an assist, Trevor Lewis had three assists, and Ethan Moreau scored in the first period –chronologically, the Kings’ first goal of the preseason.

Jonathan Bernier started and saved 18 of 19 shots in two periods. Jeff Zatkoff got the third period and stopped 8 of 9.

At Staples Center, the vantage point of the press box offered a few more insights:
Continue reading

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Lewis, six others re-sign.

Restricted free-agent forward Trevor Lewis re-signed with the Kings on Friday. His two-year deal pays a reported $1.45 million.

The announcement came with little surprise one day after general manager Dean Lombardi said a new contract was “close.” Lewis had only three goals and 13 points in 72 games last season, his first full year in the NHL. But he was hard to take out of the lineup because of his speed — a rare commodity on last year’s squad — and penalty-killing value. Lewis also had a goal and four points in the Kings’ six-game playoff series against San Jose.

Lewis can play either center or the wing, and figures to compete with Andrei Loktionov for the fourth-line center position in training camp.

The Kings also announced the signings of forwards Marc-Andre Cliche, Rich Clune and David Meckler, defensemen Andrew Campbell and Patrick Mullen, and goaltender Jeff Zatkoff. All six players spent the entire season in Manchester and were restricted free agents.

One player who won’t be returning to the Monarchs is Corey Elkins. The agent for the restricted free-agent forward wrote on Twitter that Elkins could be headed to Europe for a year and won’t re-sign with the Kings. Elkins had 18 goals and 44 points in 76 games for Manchester last season, after posting 21 goals and 43 points in 72 games the year before. Signed as a free agent out of Ohio State University, Elkins had one goal in three games with the Kings, all in 2009-10.

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Report: Berube signs entry-level deal. Update.

Goaltender Jean-Francois Berube, a fourth-round draft pick by the Kings in 2009, has signed an entry-level contract, according to RDS.ca.

5:27 p.m. update: A Kings spokesperson said that Berube hasn’t officially signed. We’ll let you know if that changes.

Berube went 32-7-8 with a 2.60 goals-against average and .902 save percentage for the Montreal Juniors of the QMJHL in 2010-11.

Berube, who turns 20 in July, is all but assured to turn pro next season and would likely be assigned either to AHL affiliate Manchester or ECHL affiliate Ontario.

The Kings have two other contracted goalies in their system. Jeff Zatkoff, a 2006 draft pick, recently completed the final season of his entry-level contract in a tandem situation in Manchester. The other half of the tandem is Martin Jones, who started last season in Ontario and finished in Manchester. He’s signed through 2012-13.

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Notes on Yutaka Fukufuji, Manchester Monarchs.

The most famous Japanese hockey player in Kings history – more accurately, the only Japanese hockey player in NHL history -was in the news again today.

Yutaka Fukufuji made 47 saves but took the loss as host nation Kazakhstan defeated Japan 4-1 in the gold-medal game at the Asian Winter Games. Fukufuji, who appeared in four games for the Kings in 2006-07, was named Best Goalkeeper of the tournament by the Tournament Directorate. The 28-year-old left North America two years ago and currently plays in the Asian League, according to Wikipedia.

A few notes from the Manchester Monarchs, the Kings’ AHL affiliate:

Scoring his third goal in as many games Friday evening, defenseman Viatcheslav Voynov (12-25=37) holds sole possession of first place on the Monarchs with 37 points.
Voynov also leads American Hockey League defenseman with 37 points on the season and is tied for the lead among AHL blueliners with six power-play goals to his credit.

LW Bud Holloway recorded an assist as well as his team-leading 16th goal of the season in Saturday’s 4-0 blanking of the Albany Devils. He has 36 points (16-20=36) in 51 games to place second on the Monarchs in points. Holloway also assisted on the game-winning goal and added a power play goal of his own as insurance in Saturday’s contest against Albany.

Martin Jones stopped all 26 shots he faced to pick up his third shutout of the season against Albany. Jeff Zatkoff missed the game with an undisclosed illness. A night earlier, Jones absorbed a 4-3 shootout loss against the Worcester Sharks.

The Monarchs (31-16-1-4) have a tenuous two-point lead on Portland (30-15-4-1) in the Atlantic Division; Portland has two games in hand. Things could change in a hurry this week: Manchester plays four games in five days, all at home, beginning Wednesday.

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Prospect evaluation: Zatkoff

Here’s the last of the prospect evaluations. Thanks again to Don for tracking down all this information and doing such comprehensive reports…

———-

Jeff Zatkoff
Goaltender
DOB – 6-9-87
Record/Stats:
Miami/Ohio (NCAA): 27-8-1, 1.72, .933

Zatkoff on his own play this year:

“From a statistical point of view I was very happy. I worked extremely hard at a few camps we had, working on my style and my stance and that helped me a lot in terms of this year just being bigger. I’m a butterfly goalie, but at the same time I don’t like to stay strictly butterfly. I like to watch the puck and use my athleticism.”

Development areas (from Hockey’s Future):

While Zatkoff does a good job of steering pucks away from the crease, his puck handling, particularly in controlling rebounds is an area that should improve with continued growth and development.

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Zatkoff signed

As expected, the Kings have signed goalie Jeff Zatkoff to a three-year contract. I believe he will be headed to Manchester today but I don’t have total confirmation of that. The Kings are excited about this guy, especially after how he played this season, with a 1.72 goals-against average for Miami of Ohio.

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