(L) Goaltenders John Gibson #35 and Jon Gillies #31 of the USA Blue Squad prepare for their game against Team Finland at the USA hockey junior evaluation camp at the Lake Placid Olympic Center on August 6, 2012 in Lake Placid, New York. Team USA defeated Finland 5-4.( August 5, 2012
- Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)
John Gibson, who was taken 39th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry draft looks to continue his rise as one of the best goaltenders for the United States junior team. No doubt, Gibson’s draft spot rose significantly after helping the US win their 3rd straight Under-18 World title, beating Sweden 4-3 in overtime. This was made even more remarkable when you consider the firepower Gibson had to face en route to an undefeated tournament, with the likes of Nail Yakupov, Mikhail Grigorenko and Ryan Murphy.
He went on to earn First Team All-Star for the tournament and was chosen as the best goalie in the tournament. Prior to being drafted by the Anaheim Ducks, John committed to play at the University of Michigan, but after the draft, he withdrew his commitment and joined the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League.
This year, the spotlight will be brighter and hotter as Gibson leads the U20 team against some of the brightest stars in hockey, many of whom would generally be in the middle of the NHL schedule if not for the lockout that threatens the 2012-2013 season. What has to be USA’s toughest competition, Team Canada boasts 2011’s first overall draft pick, Captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Along with RNH, Dallas Stars prospect and current OHL scoring phenom, Brett Ritchie will bring a new, physical looking Canadian team to complement the scoring ability of the Canucks.
Backing up Gibson has yet to be decided between Providence freshman, Jon Gillies (Calgary 2012 3rd round draft pick, 75th overall) and Guelph Storm starter, Garret Sparks (Toronto 2011, 7th round draft pick, 190th overall). Despite the greater level of competition faced in the OHL, it appears as if Gillies has set himself up to have a greater opportunity to earn the 2nd spot behind Gibson. In his last two seasons with the Indiana Ice of the USHL, he posted a 31-11-9 record and an impressive 2.77 GAA and .915%. Sparks, struggled last year in his team’s six playoff games, going 2-4 with 4.45 GAA and .881 save percentage.
Of course, time will tell how this journey will end. Like most playoff-style tournaments, a lucky bounce or an ill-timed penalty can be enough to crush your chances. However, just like the Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins have proven over the last two seasons, all it takes is a hot goaltender to vault your team to success. Like Jack Campbell before him, John Gibson will have all eyes on him starting December 26th in Ufa, Russia. If all goes according to head coach, Phil Housley’s plan, all eyes will be on Gibson on January 5th, as he stands on the center podium with gold around his neck.