Is it possible that the NHL Scouting Combine could determine the fate of North America's top two goalie prospects?
While John Gibson
of the U.S. National Team Development Program's Under-18 team and Christopher Gibson
of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League don't think so, rest assured they're doing all they can to make a lasting impression this week.
, a native of Whitehall, Pa., has been rated the No. 1 goalie by NHL Central Scouting since the start of the season, while Christopher Gibson
, from Karkkila, Finland, has been locked in at a very close second. The race to become the first goalie taken in the 2011 Entry Draft, to be held June 24-25 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., is a close one.
"I'm sure a team will probably have a strong idea already on which one they like before the Combine," Central Scouting's head goalie scout, Al Jensen, told NHL.com. "If it's close between the two, then I feel the Combine could definitely make a difference. I know the interviews come into play a lot and I'm sure they'll be able to tell how a goalie presents himself during the course of the testing."
One scout from an Eastern Conference team said the interviews his franchise conducted with both goalies Tuesday will have no bearing on where they will have them ranked on their final list.
"I'm sure a team will probably have a strong idea already on which one they like before the Combine. If it's close between the two, then I feel the Combine could definitely make a difference. I know the interviews come into play a lot and I'm sure they'll be able to tell how a goalie presents himself during the course of the testing."
-- NHL Central Scouting's head goalie scout, Al Jensen
"You get to know the kid a little bit and you gain a little bit of confirmation of what you've seen on the ice (through the Combine)," the scout told NHL.com. "You can do some mental skills questioning, and the fitness testing will tell you his capacity. The interviewing process will not bump one guy over the other, though. We've made our determination on our order as far as most players before the interviews."
, who has 22 interviews over three days here at the Combine, went 14-15-8 this season, but his .920 save percentage led the league, and his 2.42 goals-against average was second.
"Of course, it's nice to have the interviews and everything since the teams want to know the players and who they'll draft, so it's a good opportunity for everyone to see the person I am off the ice and not just looking what type of guy I am on the ice," Christopher Gibson
After going unbeaten in his only two games with the Under-18 Team in 2009-10, the University of Michigan-bound John Gibson
put together an impressive 24-11-3 mark with a 2.55 GAA and .921 save percentage in 40 games in 2010-11.
Gibson, who has 20 interviews over three days, isn't sold on the idea that whichever goalie might be perceived as having the better Combine will be considered the more viable prospect.
"I'm sure it could help, but I think they already have an idea of each of us and they've seen us play and everything like that," he said. "It's more to get to know us and see the personality and how that player will fit better for each team. I guess that's all that matters."
As far as the fitness testing, John Gibson
said he's given the aerobic-max VO2 test a trial run in preparation for Friday.
"I actually took the VO2 test, and it was tough, but as far as special training, I didn't do too much," he said. "I just did the same workout plan. I'm sure it'll benefit me here."
's most notable achievement was leading the U.S. to a third consecutive gold medal at the World Under-18 Championship in Germany last month.
"I wasn't really expecting the (two) overtime games and getting those close ones," he said. "I'm sure we killed the coaches with that, but at the end of the day, I think it made it more fun and showed the true character of our team."
He made 38 saves in a 5-4 overtime win against Canada in the semifinals, and 28 saves in a 4-3 overtime defeat of Sweden in the final. He was named the tournament's best goalie after going 6-0-0 with a 2.34 GAA and .926 save percentage.
"Overall, I just think John has such a good feel for the net," Jensen said. "He's very good positionally and plays big. He possesses good quickness and good strength, and he's got all the attributes that a pro goalie needs to be a top-end goalie."
Despite the fact Christopher Gibson
struggled in his team's four-game series loss to Drummondville in the opening round of the QMJHL playoffs -- he allowed 19 goals in four games -- Jensen sees a star in the making.
"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."
Does Jensen think the Combine ultimately will determine which goalie gets drafted first?
"With the speed of the game now and the way goalies have to move throughout the crease, especially in butterfly, they have to have strong, quick leg pushes for lateral movements," he said. "Maybe that's something scouts will be looking for during the testing process, but for the most part, I feel decisions have already been made regarding each goalie."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale