Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson has just three regular-season NHL games under his belt, but with the offseason departure of Jonas Hiller, the 21-year-old is set to make the leap as a potential starter in Orange County.
Gibson was recalled by the Ducks from its AHL affiliate in Norfolk on Apr. 6 due to an upper-body injury to Frederik Anderson. The following night he made his NHL debut, making 18 saves and shutting out the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena for his first career win.
The Pittsburgh native went on to pick up wins at home against San Jose (April 9) and Colorado (April 13), before making his playoff debut on May 10, making 28 saves in a shutout victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals.
The Ducks’ 2011 second-round pick went 2-2 in four playoff appearances.
Gibson made seven appearances in all during the 2013-14 season, posting a 1.33 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage.
On July 1, Hiller, an unrestricted free agent, signed with the Calgary Flames, paving the way for Gibson and Andersen, who have a combined 31 career regular season games under their belt, to battle it out for the starting job this season.
Speaking with the Ducks’ website last month, Gibson isn’t taking anything for granted heading into camp.
“We’ve had some good conversations, but obviously nothing is ever set in stone,” said Gibson of the vacant starting position. “I just want to come into training camp and play my game and hopefully have a good season.”
The 6-foot-3, 212-pounder says he plans on using his playoff experience against the Kings as motivation heading into what will be his rookie season.
“I think we’ll all use it for motivation for next year,” he said. “I don’t think we have to worry about in a negative way, but I think we’ll use it as a positive. “Obviously (the season) ended a little earlier than I would have liked, but I think I learned a lot. I’ll be ready to go next year, take what I learned, be better and hopefully go further in the playoffs.”
Pushing the two young goaltenders will be veteran Jason Labarbera, who signed a one-year, $750,000 contract on July 1. However, during his state of the franchise address in June, general manager Bob Murray seemed satisfied entering the 2014-15 season with his oldest goaltender, Andersen, being just 24 years of age.
“I like our two young goaltenders a lot, I’ll tell you that. I’m very pleased with the progress they made this year,” he said. “They both feel they can get better, and so do I. But they’re two real good kids. I think they both have a chance to be NHL No. 1 goalies, yes.”
With Andersen ($1.15 million) and Gibson ($722,000) making under $2 million combined this season, it gives Murray, who according to CapGeek has just over $11 million to play with, the freedom to add to an already veteran-laden lineup.
What has to be exciting for Ducks’ fans is, if Gibson manages to earn the starting role out of camp and maintain his albeit-brief NHL success, Anaheim still has one more year to give the goaltender a thorough look in 2015-16 at a bargain price of $721,667.
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