Hello, Eh: John Gibson and Brennan Serville Comment Count

Brian December 16th, 2010 at 1:54 PM



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.

Recruitin' Upshot

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.



December 16th, 2010 at 2:10 PM ^

You are a godsend. Needed a goalie in the worst way. Not only did we fill the spot but we did it with a top notch goaltender. Doesn't take the hurt away from losing Campbell, but it helps.


December 16th, 2010 at 2:26 PM ^

Wonder if the Big Chill at the Big House helped these two who were on the fence with their verbal commitment switch schools. Seems like it considering the timing of the news.

What made Gibson's choice even better was that he left OSU. Must be a smart kid.


December 16th, 2010 at 3:48 PM ^

I don't think the Big Chill had any effect on him.  A big time goalie recruit being locked up was rumored a few weeks ago and now they finally confirmed it.  It was pretty much done deal.

Part of Ohio State's problem is that they have a new coach who apparently is doing a TOTAL rebuild of the program.  Before Gibson flipped, Ohio State had 15 recruits for next season.  15!  Including three goalies!  Something had to give and, thankfully for us, it gave in our favor.


December 16th, 2010 at 2:29 PM ^

Part of why Hunwick has not had the best numbers this season is that the team has not played well in front of him.  We'll be seeing a lot more of him with Hogan out for 4-8 weeks with that groin injury.


Hopefully, the team is also through with their terrible Friday play, too.


December 16th, 2010 at 2:42 PM ^

In what world are we carrying anywhere near enough forwards?!  By my count, with Guptill and assuming nobody leaves, we have 11 forwards.  Which, you may note, isn't even a full 4 lines.  As a bonus, those 11 include EVERY forwards on next year's projected roster, including Rohrkempfer, Sparks and DeBlois.  Also, it's not like we have anybody scorching the nets this year, with Carl, Louie and Rust.  I'm very scared for goal production next year, even assuming all of our returning players step up.  I would REALLY like to see a(nother?) top end forward in the class, but, especially this late, would take just another forward, period.

EDIT:  Re-reading that last paragraph, this flip out isn't really justified, at all.  But the fear for goals stands, with precisely 2 forwards with 10 or more goals in a season returning and one more that's on pace for about 12 this season.  I agree that 2 forwards of a Serville level would be just about right for the class, though.  2 Gibson-level forwards would be absolutely incredible.  I'd be ecstatic with a split.  And after these 2 commits I'm much more optimistic that Red and co. will manage at least a little bit more magic.


December 16th, 2010 at 2:38 PM ^

What is a reasonable guess on whether (or how long) Gibson wears the Maize and Blue?  Lucky if he plays a game, a year, two years at least?

(From a casual hockey fan who starts following games in about January and suddenly realizes 2-3 guys I thought were on the team left for the NHL or one of the development leagues)


December 16th, 2010 at 2:45 PM ^

goalies tend to stay longer, a quirk of development/projecting them.  I can't think of too many anywhere that left before their junior years at earliest.  I would be surprised if Gibson isn't here for at least 3 years.  Freshman year splitting with Hunwick, sophomore and junior as a stand alone starter.   Either way, it certainly gives us some breathing room with goalie recruiting.

Clarence Beeks

December 16th, 2010 at 4:24 PM ^

goalies tend to stay longer, a quirk of development/projecting them.  I can't think of too many anywhere that left before their junior years at earliest.

There just isn't any reason to go anywhere more quickly than that.  The vast majority (if not almost all) of them just aren't ready for that jump before they'd reach the age at which they'd be juniors (I say it that way because that also includes the kids that don't go the NCAA route who also fit that mould).  Really, very few are ready before they hit their mid-20s, regardless of what development path they choose.  On top of that very few teams have weak enough depth for it to make any sense to push them faster.  The only ones in recent years that I can even think of that had to accelerate the pace were Pittsburgh (Fleury), Montreal (Price), Columbus (Mason) and Philadelphia (Bobrovsky).  There have been other situations where young goaltenders have done well, but that has been generally out of performance rather than necessity (specifically, I'm thinking of Boston with Rask).  So yeah, getting a goaltender on campus pretty well assures that you'll have them for four years.

Freshman year splitting with Hunwick, sophomore and junior as a stand alone starter.

I would expect that he'll be the stand alone starter next year as a freshman.


December 16th, 2010 at 5:38 PM ^

that Red will at least start with a rotation of Gibson and Hunwick for the first couple weekends, just to get his feet wet.  If everything we've heard about him is true, he'll likely have the full time job by November, with Hunwick getting periodic starts, against some lower-level teams and after Gibson has had a particularly bad game, to help preserve him.  I just don't see Gibson getting the full time job, right from the beginning of the season without at least the pretense of a competition, when Red has a RS senior goalie that has saved his Canadian bacon a couple times (last year, tournament time, this year Big Chill), that the team has shown it will play for, at least sometimes.

To be completely honest, when I typed that statement, I was thinking split most of the year, with Hunwick as the 1a, but going back and thinking about it more, I'll backtrack a little bit, but not all the way.


December 16th, 2010 at 2:45 PM ^

As I understand it (which is not as much as others here), goaltenders tend to toil in the minors for a much longer period of time than everybody else. Due to that, NHL teams aren't normally in a rush to sign them. I would think we can expect at least 2 years out of him and should have cautiously optimistic hopes for 4.


December 16th, 2010 at 3:16 PM ^

Great to pick up a USNTDP star. Sadly, how long he (or any other college player) stays is pretty much dependent on what organization drafts him. Plz no LA Kings.

That being said, goalies like a Carey Price, Steve Mason or Bobvrovsky who are NHL ready at 19 or 20 is just so rare. They also tend to suffer from quicker burnout and bigger sophmore slumps.

Guys like Howard or Ryan Miller are far more representative of the development trajectory of NHL goalies. They put in at least 3 years in college, get some AHL or East Coast league seasoning so they can get a good position to get a veteran mentor and kind of ease into the starter's job.

Clarence Beeks

December 16th, 2010 at 4:19 PM ^

Great to hear about Gibson.  He's one of the kids that personifies the "Lemieux effect" in Pittsburgh.  He, along with several others are really making a strong case that the Pittsburgh area has a legitimate talent pool for NHL caliber prospects.  The number of top notch prospects who are starting to come out of that area (and have been for the last couple of years now) is really quite impressive.

This is a HUGE pick up for Michigan and at the same time says an awful lot about two things: (1) the value of the USNDT to Ann Arbor and (2) the state of the OSU program.  The opportunity for these kids to become familiar with Ann Arbor before they'd ever have to consider the University of Michigan is a huge bonus for the Michigan program (if they player likes Ann Arbor, obviously).  He obviously liked it enough to be comfortable spending more time there and be further away from home than if he were to have gone to Columbus.


December 16th, 2010 at 7:21 PM ^

is a very good tendy and will certainly be a huge help for Michigan between the pipes...but he's still a whole other level behind campbell....he'll be here for 4 years.