I know the Ducks have been mired in a slow offseason. Part of that can be attributed to an overpriced free agent market and part of it can be attributed to the fact that some big RFAs need to sign in order for the trade market to heat up. Either way, the cash strapped Ducks haven't been making a lot of news this summer. Enter John Gibson. The Ducks first selection in the second round of the 2011 Entry Draft decided to let Duck fans get in on one of the more compelling debates that exists in the hockey universe, Major Junior versus NCAA. The OC Register is reporting that Gibson has elected to play in the OHL next year, rather than the University of Michigan. The Kitchener Rangers website confirms that Gibson has signed with the team and will be at camp, which starts August 31. Since that's all the news, you'll find my thoughts after the jump.The only way this move really makes sense to me is that John doesn't want to wait for playing time. If he went to Michigan he'd probably be riding the bench most games while senior Shawn Hunwick got most of the starts. He probably could have challenged for more playing time, but a glance at the season stats of the current goalies on the Kitchener squad shows that his playing time would be more assured. If that's the reason, then I suppose it's a fair one, and one with which I can agree. Personally, the type of goalie I want in my system is the kind who wants to be in the crease as often as possible.
However, I think he's making a mistake if he thinks that the OHL will have him facing better competition. I know the major junior leagues more closely replicate the professional schedule and experience of professional hockey, but I don't think they capture the competitiveness better than the NCAA. The NCAA has older players, who would be AHL eligible if they gave up their amateur status, the major junior league is mostly filled with, you know, juniors. Two years of physical development can make a huge difference in the quality of competition you face.
Furthermore, I think a move like this makes less sense for a goalie. Netminders tend to develop a little more slowly, settling into professional roles in the 24-26 range. In that situation, getting the 4 year comfort of the NCAA to more fully develop his game before heading to the AHL makes more sense than having to abandon his coaches after 2 years at Kitchener.
Finally, the educator in me can't help but be a little disappointed that he's skirting a chance at a decent education. That's not a knock on U of M, rather I think athletes are sometimes allowed to get by without fully engaging the academic side of their experience. Still, a little education would be better than none. I can't think of anyone who was worse off for learning a little bit more about the world.
Overall, I think Gibson is making a mistake. I don't think he'll see any particular advantages by switching to the OHL, and he's going to miss out on the college experience. I don't think this will have a catastrophic impact on his development as a player; I just think that if he was going to have to spend the extra years working on his game, the NCAA would have provided the best opportunity to do that.