2011 NHL Draft Prospects: No. G1 John Gibson

Goaltenders are always some of the toughest players to judge when determining their draft stock. For Pittsburgh, PA native John Gibson, however, goaltending was not even his first choice of position.

“I probably started skating when I was three or four and was playing defense for a team when I was five,” he said. “When I turned six, I converted to goalie. I guess at the time I just liked to stop pucks but I also liked to be in those pressure situations. I like to have the team rely on you to make the big save and keep them in the game. I do like that kind of pressure, I want to win games.”

Since then, Gibson has had great success, joining the U.S. National Developmental Team Program in time for the 2009-10 season. Playing behind 2010 World Junior Championship hero Jack Campbell, Gibson managed a mediocre .905 save percentage and a less-than-impressive 3.69 goals against average. But after taking a summer to develop his game, he returned and increased his stats drastically, posting a .926 save percentage and a 2.38 goals against average – numbers that garnered him the top North American goalie ranking for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

“He has size and presence in the net, and moves with power,” USNTDP goalie coach Joe Exter said to NHL.com. “The best part is he’s not just a limited goaltender for being a big guy. He’s multi-dimensional. He has power, athleticism, and he’s got good flexibility. And those parts of his game allow him to have success at the high level. He also has a calm demeanor in the net.”

Being 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Gibson is a big guy. He takes up a large portion of the net, but is also athletic enough to move that frame around with ease.

“John has great net coverage and size (6-foot-3, 200 pounds), and is very strong,” NHL Central Scouting goalie guru Al Jensen told NHL.com. “He’s sound technically, moves very well laterally and is controlled. He’s calm, not busy.”

But Gibson also was impressed with Campbell and took the opportunity to learn from the 2010 first-rounder.

“When I came to the (NTDP), I was a pretty calm guy and then, in my first year here, I was kind of new to the experience and didn’t have that experience playing at a high level,” Gibson explained. “Then I saw Jack (Campbell). He’s been around so I looked at him for leadership and saw how calm and composed he was. I just kind of added that to my game and I think it’s really benefitted me.”

“Campbell is the more the quick, athletic type and Gibson is the more a controlled, strong positional type,” Jensen said. “Both do have good size — I like how strong Gibson is.”

Gibson has great positioning, which is also partially due to his size. There are no glaring weaknesses in his game in the net (when he ventures outside the net is when he garners some problems), but he needs to improve on his all-around game. It is questionable if he will be a first-rounder this June, but you never know, when it comes to teams with a hole in their organizational depth at the position. And if that’s so, expect Gibson’s stock to skyrocket in the next few months.

Alan Bass, a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.

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