Karl Taylor wants a more balanced goaltending tandem than he had last year, when Curtis Darling served as the starter and Mike Zacharias the backup (except in late-season shootouts).
Signing Garrett Zemlak seems like a good start.
Taylor described Zemlak as an impressive physical specimen at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds. That doesn’t always translate to goaltending skills, but Zemlak proved his worth last year with career-best numbers for the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders. He also showed his durability over a total of 60 games (57 for Prince Albert, 3 for the ECHL’s Charlotte Checkers) — so the length of an ECHL season shouldn’t be an issue in Zemlak’s rookie year as a professional.
Or an AHL season, for that matter. Zemlak was so impressive at the Kings’ development camp that assistant GM (and former NHL goalie) Ron Hextall invited Zemlak back to the main camp in September.
For an undrafted free agent coming off his 20-year-old season in junior, that’s a rare feat.
“He did really well (at camp),” said Taylor, who signed Zemlak prior to the development camp. “He had some good days and had some bad days. It’s always tough for a kid like that … he wants to impress them. He’s got two goalie coaches he hasn’t worked with trying to tweak his game, so he’s trying to listen to them.
“He’s real competiive. He’s got to be coached a little and tighten up his game in a few areas.”
As for the rest of the Reign’s 2010-11 goalie picture, there are still some uncertanties. Do the Kings want rookie prospect Martin Jones to compete with Jeff Zatkoff for playing time for AHL affiliate Manchester, or start in the ECHL (like Zatkoff did) and maximize his playing time? The answer to that question could determine Zemlak’s fate.
One certainty: Darling, who led the ECHL in minutes played and played 79.6 percent of the minutes last season, won’t be back. Taylor said that Darling has retired from professional hockey.
But we’ll save that for another blog, hopefully soon.