Goalie John Gibson admits there was nothing easy about his decision to forego an opportunity to play college hockey at the University of Michigan and, instead, continue his development with the Kitchener Rangers in the Ontario Hockey League in 2011-12.
After giving Michigan coach Red Berenson a verbal commitment in December, Gibson notified the former NHL star on Tuesday that he was opting for the OHL. The decision came after a month-long discussion with parents, former coaches and his personal adviser.
"I think it's the best place for me and the best place for my development to get to the next level of my career," Gibson told NHL.com. "Obviously, I couldn't have had two better choices. Michigan and Kitchener are two historically great programs, known for winning, so it was a tough decision. It's not like one was a good choice and one was a bad choice … it was just a really tough decision with two good places to be."
Gibson, chosen by Anaheim in the second round of last month's Entry Draft, views the move to Kitchener as a great opportunity.
"Regardless of the route you choose, it all depends on how well you play and how you prepare, so I just have to be ready for this," he said. "It's a schedule I'm not used to, so I have to get used to a lot of new things. You have a lot of pressure and you're a professional now, so you have to get used to everything and hopefully get going as quickly as possible.
Al Jensen, NHL Central Scouting's chief goalie scout, wasn't overly surprised when told of Gibson's decision.
"I think John has a style suitable for the OHL -- he's big, strong, consistent and his net coverage is fantastic," Jensen told NHL.com. "I think he'll step in and do an admirable job … I really do, especially in his first year.
"I think Kitchener got itself a dynamite goalie there."
Gibson is the second straight U.S. National Team Development Program goaltender to pass on Michigan for the OHL. Jack Campbell, a 2010 first-round pick of the Dallas Stars, had committed to the Wolverine but instead jumped to the OHL's Windsor Spitfires prior to last season.
Gibson said he never spoke to Campbell for advice on his decision.
"We're two completely different kids … I did what was best for me and talked to my family," Gibson said. "They were behind me 100 percent, and I just needed to go to the place where I'd be the happiest and where I thought would be best for my career. So this is the decision I've made and, hopefully, it'll be the right one."
Jensen feels Gibson was in a win-win situation -- there was no wrong decision in his case.
"It's preference," Jensen said of opting for the OHL rather than the NCAA. "Those high-end guys can play anywhere. I don't know personally what they're thinking, but I know down the road, no matter what league they play in, they'll play in the NHL if they're good enough. They have to be happy and do what's best for them, and obviously if they think that's where they want to go, then go for it.
"They're top players, but to say they're going to a better place, I don't know because it's all preference. I'm a big believer that if you're good enough, you'll play in the NHL. Maybe to them, they feel it's the quicker route, and if it is, great, go for it."
Jensen, who had Gibson ranked No. 1 on Central Scouting's final list of North American goalies this year, feels he'll benefit from working with Kitchener goalie coach Piero Greco, who just completed his first season with the Rangers in 2010-11.
"It's a good fit there, really," Jensen said. "I haven't spoken to Piero Greco lately, but I know he's probably excited to have John there. … He's been a goalie coach around the OHL for a long time; I've gone to practices and have seen how he works with the goalies and I know John will benefit from that."
"John Gibson is a quiet goalie … he allows the puck to come to him," Jensen added. "He has a good pro-style development, which is why I feel he'll succeed in the OHL."
Gibson said it was strictly coincidence that he was the fourth member of the 2011 draft class -- and the third from the USNTDP -- to opt for the OHL instead of the NCAA in the last 14 days.
"We never really talked about it," he said. "I'm sure those guys had a tough decision to make and talked about it with their families and agents. At the end of the night, they did what was best for them. No one knows what will happen … you just hope to put yourself in the best place to develop."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale