NASHVILLE — Just three seasons ago, Jonathan Quick was stopping pucks with little fanfare in ECHL arenas across the country. Earlier this year, however, he was trusted with getting a chance to play against the world.
Quick, who played in 38 games for the Reading Royals in 2007-08, was named as Team USA’s third goalie for the 2010 Olympics. While he didn’t get to play, he did earn a silver medal and gained valuable international experience.
“I enjoyed my time up there, we had a great group of guys,” Quick said.
“It was a great learning experience being around players like that and playing with them every day for a couple weeks. It didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but looking back, you’re happy with what the team accomplished. The only unfortunate thing is we didn’t win that game at the end.”
While Quick didn’t get any game experience — Ryan Miller started every game for Team USA and Tim Thomas saw the only relief action — he did earn valuable time in practice against the best players the country has to offer.
“They’re the best in the country and some of the best in the world,” he said. “Being around those guys and practicing with them every day is definitely going to improve your game.”
Those initial improvements in Quick’s game began in the ECHL, where he was assigned by the Los Angeles Kings after two seasons between the pipes at UMass-Amherst. Drafted in the third round by Los Angeles in 2005, Quick…well, quickly shot up their goaltending depth chart and made his NHL debut in December of 2007, less than three months into his first professional season.
The Milford, Conn. native would ultimately split his season between Reading, Los Angeles and Manchester, but vividly recalls his time with the Royals.
“It was a great learning experience for me,” he said.
“I enjoyed my time there, I enjoyed my team. I remember Reading had a real good fanbase. It was fun to play in front of the crowd there.”
Quick, just 24 years old, also got a chance to play in front of…well, less than packed houses in Trenton during his time with Reading.
“I always remembered those being hard-fought games,” said Quick of Reading’s rivalry with Trenton.
“The teams really get into it, they get emotional. There’s a lot of physical play. It was a big rivalry, and every time I played them, it was always a close game.”
Not too many players graduate from the ECHL all the way to the NHL. Quick, as well as his Olympic teammate Tim Thomas, are notable exceptions. At the time, an NHL career seemed far, far away.
“It is tough, when you’re playing there, to envision what happened happening,” he said.
“I’ve been extremely fortunate along the way the past couple years here. I’ve caught a couple bounces and had good opportunities that I didn’t see coming as quickly as they did. It’s been great, it’s been a lot of fun. I’m really enjoying it.”
Quick’s road to the NHL earned him some respect in the room before he ever set foot on the ice.
“Everybody takes a different avenue to get here,” said Ryan Smyth.
“Some have to work a little harder than others, and in his case, he did. It’s awesome to see that he never forgets where he came from.”
Slated as the Kings starting goaltender going into the 2010-11 seaon — although he’ll have stiff competition from Jonathan Bernier — Quick’s teammates were eager to praise his rapid rise to success.
“He’s really calm in the net,” said Anze Kopitar.
“I think his calmness really spreads throughout the locker room. He gives us a chance every night, and that’s the most important thing for us. I’m really comfortable with him and the way he’s playing. He’s really flexible, and he reads the play really good. I think he’s one of the best goalies in the league, for sure.”
Smyth didn’t hesitate to echo Kopitar’s sentiments.
“I don’t think we’d be where we are today without him,” Smyth said.
“Most goalies nowadays are square to the puck, but he’ll scramble to make that second effort to give us a chance.”
Sometimes, however, Quick may play a little too well for his teammates liking, especially in practice.
“I just don’t shoot on him, I don’t want to kill my confidence,” cracked Kopitar.
However, confidence is just what Quick provides to a Western Conference team that’s on the rise, thanks to a young nucleus of players like Drew Doughty, Kopitar, Quick and Jack Johnson.
“Whenever you have a good goaltender, it gives you some confidence,” said Johnson, who was teammates with Quick in leading Team USA to a silver medal.
“You know that whenever there’s some miscommunication or a mishap in the D zone, he’ll be there to bail you out.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com