Hockey commitments don't usually get full posts but these are big ones. First, according to USHR and via Michigan Hockey Net, Michigan has snake-oiled away NTDP goalie John Gibson from Ohio State. This is a BFD for the program, which loses Bryan Hogan after the year and was facing a season with Shawn Hunwick as their only viable goalie. No offense to Hunwick, but he's a very small walk-on who's not doing that well this year—another option is key.
Gibson is more than just another option. He's the top-rated goalie on the CSB's USHL list, 13th on USA Today's list of the top American prospects for the 2011 NHL draft, and just a month ago ESPN's Gare Joyce listed him first on his list of top five goaltending prospects for the NHL draft, one of a group of "three elite prospects" who may end up first round picks:
John Gibson, USNTDP
Some scouts thought that Gibson (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) was in and out at the NHL Research and Development camp this summer, but he has looked very solid in showings subsequently. He gets high marks for his agility in the crease and he goes post to post very well. With Campbell last year and John Gibson this winter, it just might be that the USDT is becoming what Quebec was for many years -- the leading hothouse for goaltending prospects.
I know what you're thinking but Gibson is already halfway through the year with the U18s—you don't flip a college commitment halfway through your senior season if you're going to defect to the OHL. It was at about this time last year we found out Jack Campbell wasn't headed to Ann Arbor.
Some scouting from NHL.com:
"He has good net coverage, good size and is great on his angles," Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "He looks big in his initial set-up and while in butterfly. He's not flashy but confident and is always focused, controlled in his movements, strong in his crease and smart at reading plays."
And some more indicating he's not a flake from just junior coach:
A butterfly-style goalie, Gibson said he patterns himself after the Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury.
To hear Stern tell it, Gibson has the total package.
"John has tremendous instincts and hockey sense," Stern said. "A lot of times that gets overlooked when people talk about goalies. Everyone talks about forwards and defensemen but they sometimes forget that that's a component of goaltending, too.
"He has unbelievable athleticism, and he's extremely competitive. And he's unflappable. He's just very mature and composed. We like to say a lot of kids are low-maintenance; well, he's no-maintenance.
"That's a pretty rare thing, especially among goaltenders. They can be a quirky bunch, and I think the fact Gibson is so well put-together is something the program is going to appreciate."
Last year Gibson backstopped the U17s to a World Hockey Challenge gold, making 38 saves in a 2-1 win over Canada in the final. He's almost as good as Jack Campbell, and he's appeared from a cloud of vapor to rescue Michigan's goalie situation next year. Win.
Bonus Non-Random Defenseman
Serville is the one on top.
Michigan's also added a second defender to their class in the OJHL's Brennan Serville. Serville has eight assists in 17 games and was committed to Atlantic Hockey school Canisius before he switched. IIRC, Atlantic Hockey schools do not give out the full complement of scholarships so Serville could be a semi-walk on on a partial deal or a guy who broke out this year and found himself with better options.
It appears to be the latter, as Serville decommitted from Canisius a few months ago in search of a better situation. He was an eighth-round pick of Sudbury in the OHL (not bad for a guy who was obviously a tough sign) and was rated a B player (third to fifth round) on the CSB's watch list in October.
He impressed at the Sudbury camp he attended:
Another unsung player who turned heads is defenceman Brennan Serville, an eighth-round pick in 2009. He proved to be mobile and solid on his skates, hard to knock down or separate from the puck.
USHR says he's "a great skating defenseman with size who is good on the breakout, has good hands and sees the ice well," and his coach says he's "a great skater that protects and moves the puck extremely well from the back-end." As a big, right-handed mobile guy he could find a home as the other guy on Michigan's awkward all-lefty power play.
Michigan's 2011 class has gone from extremely worrying to pretty much fine in one fell swoop. Picking up an elite goaltending prospect is a major, badly needed coup and grabbing an uncommitted defenseman expected to be drafted in the same area Steven Kampfer was is another boost.
They're obviously done in goal. On defense Michigan added an end-of-the-bench type in recruited walk-on Mike Szuma earlier this year and is carrying eight scholarship(-ish) guys on the roster this year, so they are likely done there as well. They lose Tristin Llewellyn and Chad Langlais and could see Brandon Burlon, Mac Bennett, or John Merrill leave early (Burlon much more likely than Merrill or Bennett), but as long as they don't lose two of the early entry risks their defense next year will be something like…
…and that's a solid group.
Michigan is also carrying a ton of forwards next year and doesn't need to bring in as many as they lose but with Rust, Hagelin, Caporusso, Winnett, and Vaughn all out the door they need more than just Alex Guptill. They'll be trying to flip committed players having big seasons or just patrolling for 20-year-olds who can fill in the blanks before a more robust 2012 class comes in. If they can bring in two guys with the ability of Serville and Gibson at forward that will be a beauty save on what was looking like a rough 2011 class.