Barry Brust has consistently been underestimated throughout his career, yet he keeps coming out on top.
He was ranked the 22nd North American goalie by CSS heading into the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, yet the Minnesota Wild took him in the third round the 73rd overall pick. He failed to come to an agreement with Minnesota, but the Los Angeles Kings swooped and picked him up. The NHL lockout in 2004-05 sent him to Reading in the ECHL, where he had an impressive season. He was expected to back up Adam Hauser this season and was even assigned to Reading again for a six-game stint, but now he’s among the AHL league-leading goaltenders.
The 22-year-old netminder currently ranks fourth in the AHL with a .923 save percentage and fourth also in goals-against at 2.37. Brust had a .914 save percentage six games into the 2005-06 season with Manchester, and was still reassigned to the Royals Nov. 23 to give Yutaka Fukufuji a chance. The 23-year-old Japanese goaltender reacted well, but Brust was still recalled a month later on Dec. 23. His first game back was a 27-save, 4-0 shutout of the Springfield Falcons Dec. 30. In the 11 games since, Brust has allowed more than three goals only twice, a disappointing 4-2 loss to the Iowa Stars Jan. 21 and a disastrous start Jan. 27 in which Brust was yanked from net after allowing five goals on 16 shots in the first period.
But he rescued his game and the Monarchs Feb. 3 against Springfield, once again. Brust replaced Hauser after the first period and saved all 17 shots he faced and helped lead Manchester to a 4-2 come-from-behind victory. The victory is one of 12 in his 12-5 record.
The Swan River, Manitoba, native’s career has always shown such resilience. After playing only 16 games for Spokane in 2000-01, Brust was named the WHL Goaltender of the Year after the 2001-02 season. He played 60 games and set franchise records with a .912 save percentage and a 2.58 goals-against average. The workhorse played 59 games for Spokane the next season, but was traded midway through the 2003-04 season to the Calgary Hitmen. Brust finished his major junior career strong with a .917 save percentage and 2.24 goals-against average.
Brust was unable to come to a contract agreement with the Minnesota Wild. Eight days after the signing deadline, the Los Angeles Kings signed Brust on June 9, 2004.
The beginning of the 2004-05 season brought Brust more adversity in the form of the NHL lockout, which meant such Kings netminders as Mathieu Garon were back in the AHL, sending Brust to the ECHL to start his pro career. The 21-year-old netminder took the opportunity and responded. His 1.96 save percentage was good for second in the ECHL behind Wheeling’s Dany Sabourin and his .928 save percentage tied him for seventh with veteran goaltender Frederic Cloutier.
Brust has been criticized for lacking mobility and being a technique goalie who relies on his size, but the 6’2, 216-pound netminder keeps coming up big for his teams, earning victories. Hockey’s Future recently caught up with Manchester’s hot hand and discussed how being a Royal may help make him more than a Monarch.
HF: You’ve had a pretty solid start to your AHL career, how do you feel your time in Reading helped prepare you?
BB: It’s always nice when you get a chance to play and be the guy, and the shots are maybe a little bit better quality than what you see up here, like scoring chances and stuff. So, it prepared me well that way. The boys have done an excellent job in front of me keeping teams to the outside and covering up for my mistakes.
HF: Was it frustrating last year with the NHL lockout, going down to the ECHL, instead of the AHL, where you maybe normally would have started?
BB: Yeah, definitely. You want to play at the highest level possible. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise, who knows. Only the future will tell that.
HF: What are the biggest differences between the ECHL and AHL?
BB: Well, less quality scoring chances and harder, more accurate shots, and the offensive skill of the American League players is a little bit better than it was in “The Coast”; and just small adjustments and little things that coaches look for, and the passes are pretty intense as well.
HF: You were drafted by Minnesota but ended up signing with Los Angeles, what happened?
BB: We didn’t really come to an agreement there and I was becoming a free agent, and pretty much the day I became a free agent they called me and thankfully we were able to get a deal done.
HF: How has the Los Angeles organization treated you?
BB: They’ve treated me real well. I’m getting a chance to play, and that’s pretty much all you can ask for. I’m thankful for that and I’m just trying to do everything with every opportunity I get.
HF: What do you feel are the strengths of your game?
BB: I think I use my size pretty well and I move pretty well for my size, and I think the game well.
HF: What are the areas you’re trying to improve on to increase your odds of playing in the NHL?
BB: I need to work on playing the puck and getting better and stronger at that, and just practice every day, the ins and outs and hard work every day, and hopefully everything gets better.
HF: You played four years of major juniors and won some fairly prestigious awards along the way, how did major juniors help prepare you for pro hockey?
BB: I think the schedule is probably the biggest thing, and travel, being on the bus, and stuff like that. We played 72-game seasons and it’s almost like minor pro. I think that was the biggest thing, I think one year I played 60 games, or something like that.
HF: Which Manchester defenseman has helped you do your job the most?
BB: All of them (laughing). The older guys have done an excellent job, and the younger guys too that I’ve played with before, and the guys from “The Coast”, have stepped up and done an excellent job too. So, I’m trying to learn off of everybody and everyone has their own little things they help me work on. It’s been great and a lot of fun. I can’t say enough about them.
HF: What are your goals the rest of the season?
BB: Just play well every opportunity I get and try and earn as much ice time as I can, and keep us in games and give us a chance to win. I think that’s all a goalie can be worried about.
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.