Top draft prospects (back row L-R) Adam Larsson, Gabriel Landeskog, Dougie Hamilton, Seth Ambroz, Jonathan Huberdeau, Sean Couturier, (Front Row L-R) John Gibson, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan Murphy, Ryan Strome and Nathan Beaulieu pose for a group photo during the Top Prospects Media Availability as part of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Walker Arts Center on June 23, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Photograph by: Nick Laham, Getty Images
MINNEAPOLIS — As the top-ranked North American goalie for this weekend’s NHL entry draft, John Gibson has received some top-level interest from the Vancouver Canucks.
Whether that parlays into the Pittsburgh native being the 29th overall selection Friday probably depends on which way the dominoes fall.
The Canucks could trade backup Cory Schneider for a top-six forward and find Roberto Luongo a backup in free agency, or hold on to their Jennings Trophy winning tandem for another season. Or, they could see a lack of organization depth at the position behind Eddie Lack and select Gibson, the U.S. National Development Team product who backstopped the U.S. to the gold medal at the 2011 under-18 world tournament.
Either way, the Canucks have talked to Gibson. But how much?
“Quite a bit,” he said Thursday. “I had a couple of interviews with them. We met at the draft combine and at the national team program during the year. I don’t think they wanted to show too much or too little interest, but I’d say there was some interest there.”
Even though there’s a glut of goalies on the market, there’s reason to take a long look at the six-foot-three, 205-pound Gibson. He has committed to a prominent program at the University of Michigan and proved at the under-18 event that he can take his game to another level and quiet his critics, who say there’s not enough consistency in his game.
Gibson earned overtime wins over Canada and Sweden to be named the tournament’s top stopper with a 2.34 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. He also won gold at the under-17 challenge and was named player of the game in two of this three starts to finish with a 1.33 GAA and .957 save percentage.
“I’m tall and athletic and just think I’m calm and poised,” Gibson said. “I really think it helps me out and I never get too high or too low. Whenever you have the size, you had better make the most of it and that’s kind of what the game has changed into these days.
“I watched every playoff game and (Boston Bruins goalie) Tim Thomas obviously played well and not too many can play like that and you’ve got to give him all the credit in the world. I’m from Pittsburgh and I’ve watched (the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Marc-Andre) Fleury a lot and a lot of video on (Montreal Canadiens goalie) Carey Price because I kind of think I play a similar style. I can learn from him and incorporate it into my game.”
Being exposed to top-calibre competition at the U.S. national program and being promised a starting role this fall at Michigan, he might not be long for the college ranks.
“The national program was the best way to develop as a young kid,” he said. “They provide you with so many opportunities and trainers and off-ice people and you couldn’t ask for anything more. Having a goalie coach work with me every day really benefitted me on the ice, but also off the ice in how I present myself as a person.”
That will resonate with the Canucks because they’re looking at the player and the person.
He’s expected to be the first goalie selected, but because Gibson considers himself a work in progress, the last thing he wants to do is take anything for granted.
“I need to work on the little things — the fundamentals,” said Gibson. “If you don’t have them, you won’t be successful — and I work on them each and every day. Michigan is giving me a chance to prove myself right from the start and that’s all I can really ask for.”
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