He grew up watching Ontario Hockey League games in his hometown of Windsor.
Cracking the Soo Greyhounds roster helped defenceman Andrew Gibson move one step closer to his dream of playing in the league.
A fourth round draft pick by the Greyhounds in the 2021 OHL Priority Selection, the 16-year-old used his first training camp to leave a mark and earn himself an early spot on the Greyhounds roster.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the OHL,” Gibson said. “It’s obviously a faster pace, but I felt like as the games went on and the older guys started getting in and even in the exhibition game, I thought my game improved a lot more throughout the week.”
With limited action in the months leading up to the draft, Gibson has earned praise for the Greyhounds coaching staff as the team moves closer to the opening of regular season action on Oct. 8.
“The biggest thing about Gibby is he’s a kid who has been blessed with some really raw talent,” Greyhounds coach John Dean said of the young blueliner. “He’s a right shot, which always helps, and he’s a big boy. His ability to make plays and be calm and poised is very natural for him. I don’t know that it’s been taught to him. It seems to be a more instinctual thing. When you have something like that to mold, when you already have the raw talent, and you have to work around the edges, that’s a lot of fun to work with. He does things in practice that have really surprised me and really jumped off the page in terms of being above his age level. That just happens naturally for him and it’s a lot of fun to watch.”
Training camp wasn’t without adjustments to his game as part of his first OHL experience on the ice.
Seeing his first action during camp meant some differences when it came to making the jump from minor hockey to major junior.
“One thing was the physicality,” Gibson said of the difference as camp went on. “With the younger guys not having contact for a year-and-a-half, we all went into it not being super physical. When the older guys came in and knew how to play OHL hockey, they came in and ran us into the boards.”
With puck-moving defencemen coveted by the Greyhounds, the 6’3”, 188-pound defenceman called his style exactly that.
“I would describe myself as a very good puck-moving defenceman who plays well in the offensive zone and defensive zone as well,” Gibson said. “I’d have to say that the best part of my game is my hockey sense and my ability to make a good first pass. My favourite thing about my game is my patience.”
The young defender added that his patience will play a role in his ability to make decisions at the OHL level against older players.
“Especially with the older guys, you don’t have a lot of time and space,” Gibson said. “The ability to make a good pass is always a good thing to have and with the faster speeds coming down on you, sometimes you need patience to see when lanes are opening and closing and sometimes you just need to get the puck off your stick quick and had and make a good tape-to-tape pass.”
Not unlike many young players attempting to make the jump to the OHL, his first training camp wasn’t without looking to make adjustments.
“My defensive zone play (was the biggest adjustment),” Gibson said. “I was really an offensive defenceman in AAA and once you’re playing with older guys, you have to know your role and being defensively sound is what I’ve been working on a lot through (training camp). What I improved on was playing defence properly and not running around too much.”
Gibson, who saw action in both of the Greyhounds exhibition games this far, called his first pre-season experience with the Greyhounds a memorable one.
“It was awesome,” Gibson said of getting into the Greyhounds exhibition opener against Sudbury. “The kids were banging on the glass in warmups. I remember being a young kid in Windsor and going to Spitfires games and being one of those kids. It’s always been a dream of mine and when I stepped out on the ice, it felt like my dreams came true.”