When USA Hockey announced the invites for the men's Olympic camp in August, many names were of no surprise and others a bit unexpected. Some names were a bit shocking and some cause you to pause and say, who is that? Of all the names on the list of invitees, John Gibson, is the name that drew my attention the fastest. The 48 players at camp represented 24 different NHL teams. The only player listed as an AHL player is Gibson, representing the Anaheim Ducks via their AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals.
Some may discount the young net minder, saying he is the recipient of a gift. At 6ft 3in and 200lbs this 20 year old goalie takes up his space in the crease and leaves little space for scoring. He was selected 39th overall in the 2011 entry draft. His accolades include gold medals in the 2011 IIHF World U18 Championships and 2013 World Junior Championships as well as a bronze medal in the 2013 World Championships. Gibson was named tournament "Best Goaltender," "MVP" and named to the All-Star team for his performance in the WJC. In 2011 Gibson was the recipient of the Dave Peterson Goalie of the year award from USA Hockey.
Technically speaking, Gibson is noted for his strength, poise, and focus. He uses his legs to take away the bottom half of the net. He remains calm and controlled under pressure and is noted for his ability to thrive in "clutch" situations. He plays conservatively and reacts very quickly. His movements are very precise and he excels at positioning himself to take away the angles shooters look for. His strength and positioning are what draw attention to Gibson.
For all of the fuss over what many would consider, simply a prospect, Gibson has some impressive numbers posted in a short time and with limited appearances. From 2009-2011 Gibson played 43 games in the USHL. He is credited with 1 assist, 1 shutout, with a 2.76 goals against average, a .920 save percentage, and a 16-13-3 record. That's not a bad start to a career.
After being drafted, Gibson decided not to pursue playing for the University of Michigan, but rather to play 2 seasons for the OHL's Kitchener Rangers. In 59 games a Ranger, Gibson again registered 1 assist, 2 shutouts, he refined his goals against average to 2.58, his .928 save percentage was solid both seasons, and he posted a 38-19-1 record from 2011-2013.
On 19 April, 2013 Gibson made his AHL debut for the Norfolk Admirals. As the relief goalie he played 40 minutes against the Syracuse Crunch. Though his numbers were far from impressive, with 3 goals against, the Admirals were clearly playing against a team on a streak. Four players scored the six goals for the Tampa Bay Lightning affiliate, including a hat trick. Gibson still managed to stop 18 of the 21 shots he faced. The Invite could clinch his spot on the Admirals roster and see him gaining some unparalleled experience. Any way you look at this invitation, it speaks volumes about a young player.
Now that he's in Ducks' camp Gibson is getting his opportunity to impress management directly and move up the organization's goaltending depth chart. So far in the preseason he's appeared in two games, as opposed to zero for Igor Bobkov, the backup goalie in Norfolk last season. His first outing was unfortunately as rocky as his debut for the Admirals, as he gave up three goals on only eight shots in the third period against Los Angeles Tuesday night.
He had a bounce back performance in just over 30 minutes against Colorado, where he stopped all 18 shots he faced in relief of Frederik Andersen. If he can find that form through the rest of training camp, he could very well make a habit of filling in for Andersen in Norfolk for the rest of the year.