ST. PAUL, MN – Top-notch goaltending hasn’t been an issue for the Anaheim Ducks the past several seasons with Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Ilya Bryzgalov and Jonas Hiller each spending time patrolling the Anaheim net.
On Saturday afternoon the Ducks took a step towards ensuring they will stay strong between the pipes well into the future when they made Whitehall, Pa. native John Gibson the 39th-overall selection of the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft.
Moments after becoming the second goaltender taken in the 2011 draft, Gibson expressed surprise at being drafted by the Ducks.
“I had a couple of meetings with them,” Gibson said. “I didn’t think they would be too interested. It kind of caught me by surprise. I’m happy and thankful for it. It was definitely nerve-racking. I’m glad that it’s over. I’m happy to be in Anaheim’s organization.”
Gibson said he is looking forward to joining a strong young nucleus in Anaheim that already includes reigning Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry, talented forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan and a pair of highly-rated 2010 first-round picks – defenseman Cam Fowler and forward Emerson Etem.
“It’s definitely a great organization,” Gibson said. “I’m really happy to be there. I’m really thankful to be there. They have a lot of good, young talent coming up. Hopefully in the near future I can be there and help the team out.”
Gibson, who spent the past two seasons playing for the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) in Ann Arbor, Mich, was the No. 1-ranked North American goaltender by NHL Central Scouting.
Gibson earned that distinction after a banner season for the national squad, capped in April with a gold medal at the 2011 Under-18 World Championships where he led the United States to its third consecutive gold medal. Gibson finished the tournament with a perfect 6-0 record, a 2.34 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage en route to winning the tournament’s top goaltender award.
A member of the Pittsburgh Hornets elite travel program, Gibson became the second of four Pittsburgh born-and-trained prospects who were selected within the first three rounds of this year’s draft.
Much like J.T. Miller, who was the New York Rangers’ first-round pick (15th overall) a day earlier, Gibson credited the rise of the Penguins organization – first with the Mario Lemieux-led teams of the 1990s and now with Sidney Crosby
, Evgeni Malkin
and the rest of the current group – as the primary reason for the quality of Pittsburgh amateur hockey improving so dramatically.
|Gibson speaks to the media after being chosen 39th overall by Anaheim. |
“I think it’s because of the Penguins,” Gibson said. “I think they have a lot to do with it. They have really grown the past couple of years since they’ve won the Cup. I think a lot of younger kids are getting involved. I think it’s really helping everyone out.”
While some might consider this year’s impressive haul of western Pennsylvanian-prospects an aberration, Gibson says that is definitely not the case.
Instead, Gibson expects youth hockey in Pittsburgh to continue to thrive because, much like himself, today’s better athletes are making hockey their primary sport as opposed to traditional western Pennsylvania sports such as football, baseball and basketball.
“Hockey was always my main sport,” Gibson said. “I played baseball and basketball, but right from the start I knew (my best sport) would be hockey. I’ve played ever since.”
For the upcoming season, Gibson will take his talents to NCAA Frozen Four runner-up, the University of Michigan.
“Whenever I get the opportunity I have to make the best of it,” Gibson said. “I’m going to get a chance to play right from the start. I just have to run with it. Hopefully I’ll be the starter halfway through the season.”