When I was a young boy, the Calgary Flames seemed to have a very particular idea of what a goaltender should be. They jettisoned Mike Vernon, a perfectly fine but physically tiny older goaltender, in favour of a young, tall man named Trevor Kidd.
Trevor Kidd never really worked out. He was an excellent junior goaltender, winning awards and medals and championships. He just couldn’t bring it together as a professional.
Now the Flames have another tall goaltender with some impressive amateur pedigree. Per the annual ranking by FlamesNation’s writing staff, the Calgary Flames’ second-best prospect is Jon Gillies.
I’ll have to admit to being nervous when the Flames drafted Jon Gillies in 2012. They chose him in the third round that year. He was the seventh goalie chosen that year, after Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay), Malcolm Subban (Boston), Oscar Dansk (Columbus), Anthony Stolarz (Philadelphia), Joonas Korpisalo (also Columbus) and Daniel Altshuller (Carolina). The Senators took Calgary Hitmen goalie Chris Driedger with the pick after Calgary’s, and Anaheim starter Frederik Andersen was taken a few picks later. When you consider that few of these guys have turned out to be slam-dunk prospects, you get my reluctance to draft netminders early.
It’s not that Gillies wasn’t a good goaltender. He was drafted from the Indiana Ice of the USHL. The year he was drafted, he played 53 games and started for Team USA at the summer Ivan Hlinka tournament in the Czech Republic. He played a lot. The scouting line on him was that he was a big goalie that didn’t play big, in the sense that there are big goalies that make saves because they’re so big but they aren’t positionally very good. Gillies was touted as a big guy that happened to be pretty good positionally already and had to figure out his gigantic limbs.
Gillies went to Providence College as part of a big freshman class. He and fellow Flames pick Mark Jankowski were in the same boat as freshmen on the same team. Three seasons later, Gillies’ stock has gone up way more (and way faster) than Jankowski’s has.
Why? Well, Gillies has played a lot, and he’s been in a position to dictate whether the Friars won or lost games. But he’s also delivered when put in that position: he went 60-34-13 in 108 starts, with a 2.08 goals against average and a .931 save percentage. In one of college hockey’s best conferences, he consistently stopped 93 percent of shots on his net. When the chips were down, his team could count on him.
And look at this save with the NCAA championship on the line.
Now, Gillies went to two World Juniors and won a gold as a back-up, but didn’t medal as a starter. So in big games, he could improve a little. He definitely showed improvement in his poise when he went to the NCAA championship, and he had been battling a hip malady during his World Junior starter year. He got healthy for his junior year and he turned out to be the difference-maker for Providence College on several occasions down the stretch.
Gillies signed after the NCAA tournament and was with the Flames for both rounds of the playoffs. The kid seems like a sponge, soaking in all the knowledge he can. We’ll see how much that preparation translates to the professional ranks when he suits up for the Stockton Heat this season.
Trevor Kidd probably should’ve worked out. He had the raw abilities, but just couldn’t put them together in the NHL. Jon Gillies is a similarly impressive prospect. He’s been one of the best goalies in college hockey since he was 18. He’s won a national championship. He’s won a gold medal at the World Juniors. He’s ready for a new challenge.
And Flames fans will be watching him with a lot of nervous anticipation, hoping that the franchise can finally draft and develop a goaltender that makes a big impact at the NHL level.
To me, Gillies was one of, if not the very best goalie in all of college
hockey, and he has been for two years. I honestly thought that Gillies
was ready last season. He has awesome size and he’s a simple goaltender.
He challenges shooters for the most part, but I don’t think it’s overly
aggressive. He’s not going to scare you with his aggressiveness, is
what I mean. He’s not Tim Thomas. One of the areas of critique his first
two years at PC was rebound control, but he tightened that up this
season as well. He also has a really good makeup for a goalie. Nothing
seems to bother him and he’s strong mentally. We’ve seen him go through
some rough stretches where, statistically, things don’t look good at
all, but he bounces back. His October this past season wasn’t good at
all, but he clearly bounced back.
-Mike McMahon, College Hockey News