Goaltending prospect was 2012-13 OHL goalie
of the year; understands challenges that lie ahead
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Jordan Binnington has a full understanding that the road to becoming one of the top goalies in the Blues' system will be a difficult challenge.
Binnington, the Blues' third round pick (88th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft, joins a plethora of names that have fortified the Blues' goaltending depth and gives it one of the more sound systems in the league.
Binnington, 20, know the names ahead of him (Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott and Jake Allen). He knows the names right there alongside him (2011 fifth round pick Niklas Lundstrom and 2012 fifth round pick Francois Tremblay). But when it comes to making himself noticeable, Binnington realizes he has to help himself. And he's focused on doing just that.
Jordan Binnington, the Blues' third round pick in 2011,
was named the 2012-13 OHL goalie of the year.
If Binnington's 2012-13 season with the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League is an indication, the Richmond Hill, Ontario native will certainly continue to raise eyebrows.
Binnington completed the season with the Attack at 32-12-6 and an impressive 2.17 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. The 32 wins are an increase of 11 games from the previous season but the GAA dropped significantly (down from 2.99) and the save percentage shot up from 2011-12 (.906).
Binnington spent four years in the Attack's system. He was 86-51-14 and was part of the Attack's 2010-11 OHL championship team.
"This year went really well," Binnington said. "Owen Sound's been a great place for me the last four years. Finally I got a year where things went really well. We actually won (the OHL title) two years ago, so actually that was another good year. Personally I felt very confident in my game this year. The team played well. We had a good defensive corps that would do anything, the penalty killers were very strong and helped me out.
"A big step for me last year was staying composed and that's the way you need to be as a goalie. You can't get too excited or get too low. You've just got to keep that even keel and mostly be confident in yourself. I think that's something I got better with last year, the mental aspects of the game. I'm looking to bring that into next year. Obviously getting stronger in all aspects because everything's faster at the next level. You've got to be that much better and faster. Overall I still have some work to do."
Binnington's numbers were so impressive that he was named the OHL Goalie of the Year in 2012-13 after leading the Attack to the conference semifinals.
"When I found out, I was pretty excited about that," Binnington said of the award. "I got to go to the Hockey Hall of Fame (in Toronto) to receive the award and it was a very good experience. It was a very happy moment for me and my family. ... It's good to win that in the summer because then you realize how much you sacrifice in the summer. It actually pays off during the year."
When Binnington came into St. Louis two years ago to work with the other prospects, he was a tall, lanky and scraggly kid that certainly needed to grow into his body. He's currently listed at 6-foot-2 and only 162 pounds but continues to make his way to St. Louis to work with the Blues' training and conditioning staff, including strength and conditioning coach Nelson Ayotte.
"There's NHL players around here so you get to kind of see what they do in the summer, the amount of work it takes to get to the next level," Binnington said. "I think it's a really good experience for us. We're seeing the city and (saw) the Cards play and stuff. It's been a good experience so far. Hopefully the rest of the week goes the same way.
"I think every year you come in, you gain experience through seeing different things. I've been here before and I kind of get the feel of it. It's so good to see the NHL players and meet with Nelson, Evan (Levy) and see kind of what they want and what they expect out of Blues players. Every year is still a learning experience, but you come in and obviously I'm hoping to make the jump next year to pro hockey. It's good to see why I came here and get a taste for what it's like."
Binnington's desire is to make the Blues out of camp. He will be in St. Louis when camps opens in mid-September. But after signing a three-year, $2.275 million entry-level contract in May, the realistic goal is for Binnington to go to Chicago and play for the Wolves of the American Hockey League, which is the Blues' newest AHL affiliate.
Jordan Binnington (31) makes a save during the 2011 Memorial Cup. The
Blues' 2011 third round pick will likely begin the season with the Chicago
Making the jump from the OHL to the NHL is a challenge in itself. Doing so to the AHL will also be quite a challenge, one Binnington is looking forward to. He likes his hands -- especially the glove hand -- as well as his shiftiness going from post to post, which is a must when making the transition to the higher levels.
"I'm pretty confident in my chest and arm strength," Binnington said. "I guess (what Binnington needs to work on) would be quickness. The core of keeping that balance. I (need) to get quicker, more explosive and more powerful and stuff like that."