The two marquee names between the pipes, according to NHL Central Scouting's Al Jensen, are John Gibson of the U.S. National Team Development Program in the United States Hockey League and Christopher Gibson of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (no relation). Central Scouting has John Gibson ranked as its No. 1 North American goalie for the draft, while Christopher is No. 2.
The University of Michigan-bound John Gibson fashioned an impressive 24-11-3 mark with a 2.55 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in 40 games this past season. He led the U.S. to its third straight gold medal at the World Under-18 Championship in April, making 28 saves in a 4-3 overtime victory against Sweden in the final. He won the tournament's best goaltender award after going a perfect 6-0-0 with a 2.34 GAA and .926 save percentage.
John Gibson praised USNTDP goalie coach Joe Exter for much of his success.
"He's a lot more than a goalie coach, since he helped me out the past two years both on and off the ice," he said. "On the ice he works a lot with fundamentals and just being sound … using your strengths. The main thing is you just have to buy into practice and the work ethic each and every day. Off the ice he really taught me how to mature as a person and how to carry myself as a good teammate and in the locker room. A lot of guys kind of looked up to me on the U.S. team, and (Exter) taught me how to deal with that by making sure I was a leader by the way I presented myself on and off the ice, because we have to represent our country every day."
Christopher Gibson went just 14-15-8 in 37 games this past season, but his .920 save percentage was the best in the QMJHL, and his 2.42 GAA and four shutouts were second.
"He's got that look about him in the net," Jensen said. "When you see him, you say to yourself, 'This kid really does look like a goalie.' He has great balance and spreads out very well. He's got the makeup to be a pro goalie, the strength and knowledge that you need. He's got quick feet, but what really sticks out in my mind is his positioning, the way he covers the net. I really like the way he battles in there, too."
There isn't much that separates the two Gibsons, however, and each was in high demand at the NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto earlier this month. John Gibson had 20 interviews with NHL teams, while 22 teams met with Christopher.
"The top two guys have a very similar style … there's not much separation other than consistency," Jensen told NHL.com. "I think John has maybe been a little more consistent in his game over the course of the year. But it's a very fine line between these two."
Some scouts claim Christopher Gibson might have the better glove hand, while John Gibson exhibits much more confidence in handling the puck. But that's where the differences end, because when it comes to aggressiveness, athleticism, quickness and rebound control, the two are neck-and-neck.
NHL.com caught up with both Gibsons during the Scouting Combine and asked each goalie a series of identical questions. Would two goalies similar in ability have differing points of view on the same topic? For starters, let's go on record in stating each preferred a scintillating glove save over a blocker stop. Then again, who wouldn't?
NHL.com: How do you use your size to an advantage?
John Gibson (6-foot-3, 205): "I just try to take up the most net as possible with athleticism. Hopefully, that's good enough to keep the puck out of the net."
Christopher Gibson (6-foot, 193): "I'm a calm goalie. I wait for the player to make the first move, and I think it helps to be a big goalie in that way. I think I move pretty well, so I cover a lot of the net and I work with (Chicoutimi goalie coach) Marc Denis to get the best out of every single move; there are no extra moves."
NHL.com: What is your strategy in controlling rebounds?
JG: "The main thing is you have to track the puck and use your eyes the best you can. You have to cover the puck or put it in the corner or into the harmless zones. I think that's the main thing, especially nowadays with the way the game has changed the last couple of years."
CG: "You have to have a good stick and move with the puck to control and concentrate that the rebound won't jump in front of you."
NHL.com: Do you enjoy pressure?
JG: "Over the past few years, I've grown a lot in pressure situations and I feel like it's an extra notch in my cap that I've been able to prove to everyone else. I like those situations. I like coming up big when the team needs you to do so."
CG: "I enjoy pressure, but to a certain extent. In the QMJHL playoffs this year I had a lot of pressure and it didn't really go that well. It was the first time someone really put that much pressure on me. But overall it was OK. I like it."
"The top two guys have a very similar style … there's not much separation other than consistency. I think John has maybe been a little more consistent in his game over the course of the year. But it's a very fine line between these two." -- Al Jensen
JG: "I'm kind of laid back and like to have fun. At the same time, I definitely get focused for the game and get zoned in, but during practice and everything, I like to have fun and joke around. That's a big part of enjoying the game."
CG: "On game days I sit alone and concentrate on my game, but during practice I like to talk with the guys and joke around a little bit. Just before going on to the ice, I go into my little bubble there and concentrate on practice, but while I'm putting my gear on, I like to joke around with the guys."
NHL.com: How much more mental than physical is playing the position of goalie?
JG: "There's a big mental part, especially when you get the bad bounces or something happens with the team. You have to have a strong mental game and have an ability to put it behind you and not let it affect you … trusting your abilities and your team's abilities that they'll bounce back."
CG: "I think a large percentage of playing goalie is mental, but I don't know the actual percentage … for me, it's a lot. You have to be physically prepared for the position, of course, but it's all in the head."
NHL.com: Do you enjoy shootouts?
JG: "I think they're fun. I like pressure situations and at that time, it's on you to keep the team in the game and trust that they'll score, so I like those situations. We always had five minutes of shootout practice -- when you win it's great, and when you lose it stinks. But they're fun."
CG: "I don't really like shootouts at all. Of course, it's a way to end the game, but this year I didn't really have a lot of luck in the shootouts, so I didn't really like it."
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