The 2014 Flames Fifteen: #6 Jon Gillies

Jon Gillies makes his second appearance in the Flames top-10 prospects list (9th last year), a rarity for goalies since they are extremely difficult to predict. Projecting puckstoppers is mostly voodoo, even for the pros, to the degree that NHL starters are usually randomly scattered through the draft (or signed as free agents from other leagues). That is why I am staunchly opposed to using a top-60 pick on a goalie in any given draft, or paying anyone outside of, say, Henrik Lundqvist (drafted in the 7th round) big, long-term dollars. It’s also why I typically discount most goaltending prospects until they’ve managed to do something noteworthy as a pro.

Jon Gillies is the rare exception. In fact, I had him rated the highest of anyone in this exercise at 4th overall. Gillies had an outstanding freshman season for Providence two years ago. That put him on the map, but he managed to replicate that performance again this past year, so there might just be something to this kid. 

Player  Justin Kent Ryan BOL Byron Taylor Christian
Jon Gillies 8 4 7 4 9 5 8

Gilies’ .931 save rate matched his rookie effort and was the third best SV% in the Hockey East division and fifth best nationally. He was also the starter for the US WJC team, though his performance at the tournament stands as perhaps the only “blemish” on his college resume so far. The big 6’6″ ‘tender struggled and the team failed to medal which was a disappointment given the Gaudreau lead version just a year earlier won the gold. Gillies’ WJC struggles bled somewhat into the season when he returned, dropping his save percentage from an incredible .940 to below .930 for a time.

Whether the issues were mental, randomness, or caused by injury, Gillies eventually rebounded and finished the year strong with a SV% above .930 in six of his last eight games. Like the previous season, he was the primary reason the offensively challenged Providence Friars were competitive. Though wins are often a lousy barometer for a goalie’s talent, Gillies went 19-9-5 in 2013-14, noteworthy on a team that only had one skater finish with more than 30 points.

Though he has been one of the most dominant goalies in the NCAA through two years, Gillies has decided to return to college for at least one more season. If he puts together another all-star effort, there’s a good chance he’ll turn pro in 2015.


My pragmatic stance on the low relative value of goalie prospects has been taken to mean goalies are altogether worthless. That’s not true. It would be incredibly valuable to find and develop a quality starter internally because a team can waste many a good season by not having a guy who can stop the puck. The problem is, identifying and grooming goaltenders is really hard and usually they don’t tend to be worth much more than what you could find in free agency anyways. Hopefully, that’s not true of this guy.

So far, Gillies is trending in the right direction. We still won’t know for a few years what he’ll be at the pro level, but he’s been nothing short of outstanding as an amateur so far. If Gillies continues to trend up, he might be ready to step into the Flames crease just as the team is starting to contend again.

  • PrairieStew

    With you 100% on the goalies. A total crapshoot in the draft. Calgary has drafted 23 goalies since 1980 – 4 in the first round – and of those 4 only Trevor Kidd actually played any significant time with the Flames( or the NHL at all – Muzzati, Krahn, Irving).

    The only other guys to have NHL careers are Vernon (56th overall), Andrei Trefilov (261st), Craig Anderson (77th) and Curtis Mcilhinney (176th). The jury is out on the last 3 – Ortio, Brossoit and Gilles.

    So 5 of 20 overall – 1 of 4 in the first round. 25% is terrible.

    I am excited that both Ortio and Gilles look like prospects but they both need to continue to improve before we count those chickens.

  • everton fc

    Do you think Burke and company will continue w/Ramo? Or perhaps sign a more seasoned pro and let Ortio earn his time on the farm?

    Or… Is Ramo a “seasoned pro”.

    (Persoally glad to see McElhinney get a run w/the Jackets last season. I always hoped he’d become a decent, reliable #2. Perhaps he hs. Finally)

    • piscera.infada

      Burke said in an interview following the close of the season that Ramo has earned the chance to be the starter next season, but they would try to bring in a competent (and likely veteran) backup. He says he believes that for a goalie to develop (Ortio) he needs a chance to get as much playing time as possible (thus, in the AHL). Seems very reasonable, and smart as well.

      Sounds like we’ll see Ramo/? in the NHL and Ortio/Roy in the AHL. If Ortio progresses more next season and Gilles leaves college, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Orts get a legitimate shot as a tandem with Ramo the following season with Gilles getting the lion’s share of the time in the AHL.

  • Lordmork

    Maybe the most exciting thing about the Flames current position is just how a lot of their prospects are going to be hitting their stride right when we hope the team will be competitive again. There are still some big holes to fill, mind you, and I don’t know how many years the team can keep a skilled core of great young players together, but I still really look forward to seeing the Flames play in about 3 years.

  • supra steve

    Great to see the team with 3+ keepers with good potential…been a long time since the Flames could say that!

    Notwithstanding some decent G prospects a few commentators have indicated they feel the Flames would/should take goalie in the draft.

    So how many keepers should a team have in development?

    In surveying the top 10 prospect systems as rated by HF:

    – 5 of the top 7 prospect groups had 3-4 prospects ranked 7.0 or better. This group included BUF, ANA, TBL, CAL, and NYI.

    – 2 of the top 7 (DET, CHI) and the 8-10 team prospect systems (CBJ, DAL, MTL) had just 1 or 2 top G prospects rated 7.0 or better.

    Given this information, the number of experienced UFA goalies, and the success of keepers undrafted or late round picks I would think the Flames are better off not to pick any keeper in the draft given their critical need for good RW or RD prospects to develop.

    • piscera.infada

      Given this information, the number of experienced UFA goalies, and the success of keepers undrafted or late round picks I would think the Flames are better off not to pick any keeper in the draft given their critical need for good RW or RD prospects to develop.

      I agree, outside of being able to get good value in a later round as perceived by the scouting staff. I heard the story of Lundqvist on the Fan 960 right before the start of the Cup Finals and it was astonishing. You can read about it here.

      Tldr: Glen Sather had just been hired, so AGM Don Maloney was in charge of the draft. By chance, Maloney saw the European goalie rankings of their European scout open on the draft table and noticed Lundqvist was first on the list. Head Scout Martin Madden didn’t like him, but Maloney overruled that based on the European scout’s rankings. Then, they ended up with a hell of a goalie.

      Goalies being voodoo and all, it doesn’t hurt to have a large number. It seems as though the more eggs you have in that basket, the more likely you’ll be to get a good one. As Kent alludes to above, while there are more pressing needs, it also hurts a lot of teams to be competitive while simultaneously always chasing that elusive number one goalie. So no, don’t go blow a high pick on one, but if there’s perceived value in a later round, do it.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    Why is it that in terms of projection/identification:

    Forwards > Defencemen > Goalies ?

    Is focusing on what finally happens with puck non instructive for all not belonging to forward group?

    I understand that historically it’s been difficult to ascertain (don’t draft a goalie in first round, don’t draft a d first overall) but WHY? What, exactly, makes it more difficult – so how to overcome this?

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I’m with you Kent I think Gillies is one of our top 5 prospects along with Sven, Gaudreau, Poirier and Granlund.

    He has huge potential and I really like the idea of Ortio and Gillies as homegrown NHL goalies..

    I think they both have a good chance of being legit NHLers.

    In saying that goalies are so unpredicatable, its unfathomable to think Kipper was less valuable than Toskala (and Nabokov) at one time..

    • DragonFlame

      I saw a couple of games from the Providence website, very choppy though.

      Hope Gillies has a better year next year, he gives up way to many rebounds right in front of the net. Ortio is excellent at putting them in the corners.

  • DragonFlame

    About the only blessing with the Flames taking Leland Irving in the first round back in ’06 is that there aren’t a pile of household names behind him . . . Nick Foligno (28th), Milan Lucic (50th) Steve Mason (69th) and Brad Marchand (71st). While it is true I’d have rather had any of them than Irving, there are 28 other teams that also missed out on the aforementioned names. Boston struck gold, I’d have to say.

  • beloch

    A while back somebody posted a link here to great article on Finland’s goalie system, which Ortio is a product of. One thing that stands out in my memory was that the article noted a big difference in warm-up for goalies in Finland vs North America. While players get in close and fire at point blank range to warm up goalies here, in Finland they make the forwards shoot from further out. This lets developing goalies see the puck coming and get used to controlling where rebounds go or catching the puck rather than simply being in the right spot to stop it. The article suggested this was partly responsible for the fact that good rebound control is a hallmark of the Finn’s.

    More generally, perhaps goalies can reach higher peaks if they’re given more time to progress at each step. Just as a goalie might never learn good rebound control if he faces only close shots and has no time to worry about anything but position, perhaps there are other skills that are easier to learn and practice at lower levels than the NHL. In this sense, granting a promising goalie plenty of time in lesser leagues might be a very good thing.

    For this reason, I like both Gillies decision to stay in college for another year and the Flames’ decision to start Ortio in Adirondack. Ortio seems more than capable of serving as a backup in the NHL, but there are skills he may learn easier in the AHL, especially if he plays a lot more games there. Both of these goalies may eventually be the better for a little patience now.

  • DragonFlame

    While I agree that Gilles has the potential to be great I would not have ranked above Ortio only because Ortio has a full professional season in the AHL and a handful of NHL games. I said at the outset I would probably not rank any of the NCAA kids as they are not going to play this year. I do feel his upside is higher than Ortio.