The Toronto Maple Leafs recently announced that they had signed Finnish goalie prospect and former QMJHL Chicoutimi Sagueneens Christopher Gibson to a three year entry level contract. Originally drafted by the Los Angeles Kings 49th overall in 2011, the Kings had recently decided not tender him an offer allowing Gibson to explore his options with other NHL clubs.
The 20 year old Karrkila, Finland native who comes in at 6’1”, 198lbs represented Finland in the 2012 U20 World Junior Championship and although his statistics do not necessarily express it, in my opinion he is a solid prospect who spent his junior years playing on a barely .500 team for the entire four years he spent playing in the QMJHL.
Hockey’s Future had this to say about Gibson’s talent level “Thanks to his great positioning, any puck that Gibson can see, he’s likely going to be able to stop. Technically solid and aggressive in his crease, he moves well and is quick to cut down the angles. In addition to his strong glove hand, he also controls his rebounds extremely well.” and it should be interesting to see how his skills translate at the next level of either ECHL or the AHL in his first year of professional hockey this coming season.
That being said Bradshaw Furlong over at The Hockey House had a different opinion on the young netminder indicating that “…Gibson struggles with game-to-game consistency, has poor positioning and lets in soft goals more often than he should. So don’t expect Gibson to do much in terms of NHL productivity as it is doubtful he will even reach that level.”. If so, this could very well be one of the reasons the LA Kings decided not to sign him in the first place although you would have to assume the Leafs scouts were focused on him both then and now given his particularly high draft ranking.
Now I was always under the impression, perhaps incorrectly, that goalies are incredibly difficult to judge in terms of development ceilings and overall potential, definitely no expert but the highest goalie taken in the 2013 draft, Halifax Mooseheads Zach Fucale who is of similar size did not post earth shattering numbers in comparison to Gibson and although there is a two year difference, Fucale was playing on a stacked Halifax team who dominated in both the regular as well as the post season.
It should also mentioned that the LA Kings did not have a first round pick in that particular draft and elected to pick Gibson regardless, did they consider him to be the best player available at the time or where they playing river boat gambler? Hard to say but Central Scouting had Christopher Gibson ranked number two that year behind wonder stud John Gibson who the Anaheim Ducks took 39th overall that same draft.
Came across an interesting Alan Bass (The Hockey News) article on Gibson that perhaps sheds some additional light on what kind of prospect the Leafs now have here:
Here is Gibson’s draft card video from the 2011 draft:
The new ECHL affiliation with the Orlando Solar Bears will serve the Leafs well this year given the player flexibility it now affords the team and it would not surprise me if they have Gibson sent to Florida to start the year to get him as much playing time as possible. With Garret Sparks and Drew MacIntyre most likely sharing time between the pipes for the Marlies, the crease is a little crowded and having Gibson watching from the stands benefits no one. Sparks could technically be sent back to junior but only a really poor showing in camp would cause that and I doubt anyone agrees it would help his own development. Regardless it sounds like Gibson has some promise and with the loss of both Rynnas and Owuya and Maple Leafs really needed an additional prospect in the pipeline. Food for thought.