As part of the AnaheimDucks.com annual Player Reviews, we will be featuring a different Ducks player throughout the coming weeks, in numerical uniform number order. Each review will include key stats, a highlight from last season and an outlook for 2016-17
By Kyle Shohara
At only 23 years of age, John Gibson has the potential to become something very special here in Anaheim. We’ve all caught glimpses of his extraordinary talent, going back to his shutout victories in his NHL regular season and postseason debuts on April 7, 2014 at Vancouver and May 10, 2014 at Los Angeles, respectively. Or two seasons ago, when he established career highs in wins (13), saves (616), appearances (23) and starts (21).
His work paid off in the form of a three-year contract extension given last September that kicks in for the upcoming 2016-17 season.
Still considered a rookie by league standards at the time, Gibson began the 2015-16 regular season in San Diego as the Gulls' No. 1 netminder. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native appeared in 13 games with San Diego, posting a 7-4-1 record, 2.63 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. It wasn't until mid-November when he got the call-up to Anaheim to replace Frederik Andersen, who had fallen ill with flu-like symptoms that would eventually take him out of the lineup for a six-game stretch from Nov. 24-Dec. 4. Gibson wouldn’t see San Diego again, and with good reason.
He wasted little time cementing himself as a full-time NHL goaltender after earning the NHL’s Rookie of the Month honors for December, going 5-3-1 with a 1.62 GAA, .929 SV% and three shutouts in 10 appearances. Within that month (and carrying over into January), Gibson posted the third-longest scoreless streak and longest by a rookie in franchise history (184:30) from Dec. 27-Jan. 3, which also marked the third-longest streak by a rookie since 1989-90.
Gibson and Andersen went on to win the William M. Jennings Trophy at the 2016 NHL Awards in Las Vegas this past June, presented “to the goalkeeper(s) having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it.”
The Jennings race wasn’t decided until the final game of the season, when the Ducks traveled to Washington with a one-goal deficit in the competition – Washington with a league-low 191 goals-against, Anaheim with 192. Gibson and Andersen clinched the Jennings win when the Ducks shutout the Capitals, 2-0, keeping their goals-against total at 192 and pushing Washington’s to 193.
The tandem became the first Ducks goaltenders to claim the Jennings Trophy in franchise history.
Gibson finished the regular season with his first career 20-win campaign (21-13-4), and also set career highs in GAA (2.07), SV% (.920), shutouts (4) and games played (40). He ranked tied for second among NHL goaltenders in GAA and tied for eighth in shutouts, and led rookies in GAA and shutouts, co-led in wins and SV%, and ranked second in appearances and starts (38).
His efforts between the pipes after his recall from San Diego earned him a trip to the 2016 NHL All-Star Game on January 31, where he became the second-youngest U.S.-born goaltender to play in the event since Buffalo’s Tom Barrasso in 1985. Furthermore, Gibson was also the youngest NHL goaltender of any nationality appearing at the All-Star Game since Montreal's Carey Price (21 in January 2009).
He joined teammate Corey Perry, now a four-time NHL All-Star, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville for what turned out to be one of the most exciting and entertaining All-Star Games in recent memory.
No stranger to acrobatic, jaw-dropping saves, Gibson came up with a beauty on that night, a sprawling right pad stop on Team Central's Tyler Seguin. His save kick-started a two-on-none rush that saw Taylor Hall score to give Team Pacific an 8-5 lead. Gibson and his teammates went on to defeat Team Atlantic, 1-0, in the final round, with Perry scoring the game's lone goal.
With Andersen now in Toronto, Gibson becomes the unquestionable starter for the Ducks moving forward. As mentioned earlier, there’s no doubt he has the potential to take the reins full-time, and be tremendous doing so, but how his body adjusts to the increased workload remains to be seen. He’s had injuries throughout his first three NHL seasons, and his performance in Games 1 and 2 of the First Round against Nashville were far from his best.
But if he can stay healthy throughout an entire season, and elevate his game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Gibson can place himself among the league’s elite.