LaSalle’s Andrew Gibson had barely settled into his seat at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Thursday.
Within minutes of the start of the second day of the NHL Draft, the 18-year-old Gibson was up and making his way to the arena floor after being taken by the Detroit Red Wings with the 10th pick of the second round.
“I knew there was a possibility that I could go really early (Thursday) and I was on the edge of my seat the whole morning,” said Gibson, who was the sixth Ontario Hockey League player overall drafted. “It’s an honour.”
The six-foot-three, 202-pound Gibson missed two months of the season with Sault Ste. Marie with an injury, but returned and earned a spot on Canada’s under-18 team for the world championship and won a bronze medal.
“He was a guy we were able to see a lot of,” Red Wings’ director of amateur scouting Kris Draper said. “He was off to a good start when he got injured and was able to come back. It’s great when these prospects get a chance to represent their county.”
Gibson was one of five players with area ties selected on Thursday in the final six rounds of the seven-round draft. The Anaheim Ducks used the first pick of the fourth round to take Windsor’s Konnor Smith with the 97th overall pick. Windsor Spitfires’ defenceman Rodwin Dionicio, who was bypassed in last year’s NHL Draft, also went to the Ducks with the first pick of the fifth round with the 129th pick overall. Tecumseh’s Ryan MacPherson, who helped the Leamington Flyers to a Sutherland Cup title, went to the Philadelphia Flyers in the sixth round with the 172nd selection while Windsor’s Warrren Clark went to the Tampa Bay Lightning seven picks later.
“It’s just a great feeling being picked so close to home,” Gibson said. “It’s amazing. I was shaking. I barely remember the feeling.”
Ironically, it was 34 years ago that the Red Wings took an area defenceman playing for Sault Ste. Marie in the second round. That was Bob Boughner, who is now Detroit’s associate coach and handles the defence.
“My dad (Al) actually played baseball with him when he was a little kid,” Gibson said of Boughner. “I have never met him, but I am looking forward to it.”
In Nashville, Gibson got to spend time with Windsor’s Konnor Smith, who are both products of the Windsor Jr. Spitfires Zone AAA program.
“We had a lot of time together,” the 18-year-old Smith said. “Three years ago, we were running Malden Hill.”
And on Thursday, the six-foot-six, 209-pound Smith, who also plays defence, joined Gibson on the floor after being selected by the Ducks.
“I had quite a few talks (with the Ducks) and they seemed interested,” said Smith, who helped Peterborough to an OHL title this season. “I had a feeling, but you’re never 100 per cent.
“Words can’t describe how I feel right now. It still doesn’t feel real right now. All I heard was Peterborough Petes, Konnor and that’s all I remember, but the work’s just getting started.”
Dionicio remained home in Switzerland and was not in Nashville to hear his name called on Thursday, but was all smiles after the Anaheim selection.
“I’m doing great now,” the 19-year-old Dionicio said. “ It’s awesome. Getting picked by Anaheim is unbelievable.”
The six-foot-two, 207-pound Dionicio came to the Spitfires just ahead of the Jan. 10th OHL trade deadline after representing Switzerland at the World Junior Hockey Championship.
He credits that move with getting him taken in Thursday’s NHL Draft after putting up 11 goals and 43 points in 33 games with the Spitfires.
“That was probably one of the best decisions I could ever do was to get the trade to Windsor after world juniors,” Dionicio said. “I learned so much playing there and grew as a person. I got a lot of (ice) time and got the trust from the coaches. I probably wouldn’t have done it without the organization and I’m grateful for it.”
MacPherson also opted to not travel to Nashville and spent the morning playing golf.
“I was checking my phone now and again,” MacPherson said. “I got a call from my advisor and he said, ‘Did you see?’ I said, ‘No’ and 10 minutes later my name popped up on the television.”
MacPherson topped the Flyers in playoff scoring with 14 goals and 38 points in 24 games and was named the Western Conference’s top defensive forward.
“There were a couple of teams (interested), but, if any team, I thought it would be Philly,” MacPherson said. “They have a scout (former Spitfires’ goalie coach Rick Pracey) in this area that came out and watched. It was still unbelievable and an unbelievable moment to spend with my family.”
The one disappointed was twin brother Connor MacPherson, who was also rated for the draft, was not selected. However, the brothers, who will play for the Penticton Vees next season before heading to the University of New Hampshire, will remain together. The Flyers have extended a free-agent invite to his brother for the club’s prospects camp.
“We fly out of Detroit (Friday),” MacPherson said.
Another product of the Junior Spitfires, the six-foot-three, 194-pound Clark, who is a defenceman, played this past season for the Steinbach Pistons in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. The 18-year-old Clark is scheduled to attend St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.