Top 25 Under 25: #16 Jaroslav Janus

Once the odd man out in the Tampa Bay Lightning goalie picture, Jaroslav Janus, now thriving in the KHL, may be one of the best goalie prospects in the system.

Last year, the AHL Syracuse Crunch started their season with the goaltending tandem of Dustin Tokarski and Jaroslav Janus, netminders during the Norfolk Admirals record-setting 28-game winning streak and 2012 Calder Cup Championship.

That season, Janus, drafted in the 6th round in 2008 (162nd overall) appeared in 34 regular season games with a .914 save percentage and 2.36 goals against average in a tandem with Tokarski. Once the AHL playoffs began, however, Tokarski took hold of the starting job and ran with it. Janus only appeared in 4 games in the postseason when Tokarski faltered. Janus finished the Calder Cup Playoffs with a 3-1 record with a .937 save percentage and 1.69 GAA.

Not known at the time, however, was the fact that those games could end up being the last ones played for the Lightning organization. Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman signed goaltender Riku Helenius -- a former 1st round pick of the club -- to a 2-year deal in the summer of 2012, with intentions to bring him over to North America to compete for playing time in the AHL and, eventually, the NHL, which is why his contract was one-way in the first year and two-way in year two.

Unfortunately, this created a log-jam in net at the AHL level with Janus, Tokarski, and Helenius, and Yzerman and Assistant GM Julien BriseBois were forced to make a decision about which one to move. The ECHL, while an option, was not a competitive enough league for any of the three, and development of talent was still a concern even for the goalie they ended up exiling -- Janus. Sent to Europe without an appropriate spot within the organization in North America, Janus has played the last two seasons in his home country of Slovakia, for the KHL team located in the capital Bratislava (Slovan Bratislava).

Here is how the panel ranked him:

Kyle Alexander John Fontana Clark Brooks Clare Austin Patti McDonald Mike Gallimore
17 18 18 18 17 20

Resident goaltending guru Clare Austin weighs in on Janus' style and current situation:

Jaroslav Janus has definitely developed his positioning over the past year in the KHL. He's more controlled and efficient than he was a year ago. That said, he's still a hard-challenging goalie who'll play in the middle to top of the crease. He's listed at 6'1", but has a low, wide stance that at times makes him seem smaller. He could stand to straighten his back a bit more. He looks a bit old-fashioned in some ways, particularly in save selection. I have yet to witness his use of either a VHS or PKD and he rarely even uses a half-butterfly. Based on my limited viewing of him, I feel like the thing he most needs to work on his his balance, as he does end up on his butt quite a bit, though in part that appears to be a result of his biomechanics. Good, active glove held in front. Great tracking. As always, makes saves he has no business making which is a testament to his focus and tracking ability.

Janus' first season in the KHL (2012-2013) went quite swimmingly, as he seized the starting gig in the second-best hockey legue on the planet, appeared in 47 games, and finished with an 18-16-13 record, a .928 save percentage, and a 2.18 GAA as Slovan Bratislava made the KHL playoffs, where Janus struggled in just two games as his team was eliminated early.

The 2013-2014 KHL season got started a little before the NHL season, and so far, Janus' struggles continue. He's now splitting time with Kopriva Miroslav, a both have appeared in 6 games each to start the year. Janus so far is 2-4-0 with an .871 save percentage and a 3.30 GAA.

Ironically, despite some poor games early this year, Janus might actually be the third best goaltender in the Lightning organization currently. Unfortunately, having bailed on him last year, Janus is now unavailable to the Bolts for a call-up in the event of an injury to Anders Lindback or Ben Bishop. With Riku Helenius dealing with personal issues back in Finland, and Dustin Tokarski flipped for Cedrick Desjardins, the organization is probably now facepalming at having let Janus go at all. His NHL rights are still held by the Lightning, but if he continues to have success in the KHL, there is a very real chance he is never lured back to North America.