FlamesNation Prospect Profile: #2 Jon Gillies

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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.

QUOTABLE

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

  • Rockmorton65

    It’s too bad the flames traded away brossoit. He would be in this slot if he was still in their system. Look at his stats the last couple years, impressive. Smid for brossoit, haha.

    • RedMan

      you don’t think the Flames needed a defenseman when they got Smid?

      Edmonton got prospects that will likely never make the NHL, while the Flames got an NHL calibre defenseman.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      First post… wow. This troll is more eager to troll a Flames article than Flames fans are to comment. Do you sit at your machine refreshing the FN homepage waiting for the next article?

      However to your point… I agree and disagree with you. Brossoit for Smid was stupid, yes. However Brossoit is not at the same level as Gillies. It’s what made Brossoit expendable.

      This will be fun… at the end of next year, let’s compare the two’s AHL stats and see how much better Brossoit’s save % is compared to a year younger Gillies. Deal?

    • PrairieStew

      Flames had both Ortio and Gilles so the ECHL goalie was expendable. One should ask why a team with huge holes on defence would trade away an NHL defenceman for magic beans. Oh right, I remember, it was to free cap space to bring in Ilya Bryzgalov.

    • Burnward

      Why did the oilers trade for and sign a KHL goalie if they thought Broissot is so great? oilers have to trade for goalies because they came up with sh!t in their own system….

  • DoubleDIon

    @RyanPike

    “When you consider that few of these guys have turned out to be slam-dunk prospects, you get my reluctance to draft net minders early.”

    I don’t really get this statement. Four of the goalies you mentioned are either already proving to be very good or are like Gillies highly thought of, that leaves five that I don’t know much about. So if 4/9 work out that seems like a pretty good result don’t you think.

    Also Suban and Vasilevski were taken in the first round. There were I believe 11 goalies taken in the fist three rounds, including everyone you mentioned. There were 13 more taken after that, rounds 4-7. None of the goalies taken in the late rounds are considered good prospects, save maybe one or two eventually. Looks like the numbers bare out that if you want a top goalie prospect you take them in the fir three rounds.

    So what is your reluctance? And when do you think you are going to draft a potential franchise or even NHL caliber goalie?

      • Parallex

        I believe my statement was that the goalies in question are Proving not proven to be very good OR highly thought of. And Pike was referring to them as prospects not NHL starters yet.

    • Parallex

      Andersen–the best of the lot–originally went undrafted twice until he was taken in the seventh (!!) round by the Hurricanes in 2010 (he was originally draft-eligible in 2008, having a late 1989 birthdate). He then went unsigned and re-entered the draft, whereupon he was taken in the third round by the Ducks in 2012. Not even close to the first goalie off the board.

      Why is Ryan not a fan of taking goalies early? I think that pretty well sums it up, no?

      That said; the third round is far from the worst place to take a keeper.

      • Rockmorton65

        Here is a link from an article by Darren Haynes at Calgary Flames-From Eighty Feet Above:

        http://www.flamesfrom80feet.ca/2014/06/taking-closer-look-polarizing-selection.html

        Some interesting thoughts here on drafting goalies.

        I could also refer you to the 2005 draft, a text book case of goalie drafting highlighted by Top 1ST rounders Price And Rask. Followed by Pavelec 2nd, Quick and Bishop 3rd round, thats 5/9 in the first three rounds. And following, Stalock in the 4th then 13 others with a total of 5 games played. Yes an extreme example but there is a point to taking goalies earlier.

  • Derzie

    Gilles is promising. Broissoit is promising. Smid was lousy in Edm (the worst team in the modern era) so why would he be good in Calgary? We lost that trade big time.Not only did we give up the better player but we gave him to Shelbyville. Unforgivable.

    • Rockmorton65

      Meh. We traded a box of spare parts on the chance he would become a middle pairing option. No biggie. Just gives us further education to “not trade for players with the “Oilers stink””

    • T&A4Flames

      I don’t quite understand how you can view the trade this way. Until any of the players we gave them prove to be competent NHL’s, you can’t say “we gave them the best player!”

      Regardless of your views on Smid, he was a legit NHL player and we needed some depth at the time he was acquired.

  • DoubleDIon

    For me it’s fairly straight forward. Goaltenders generally shouldn’t be your target in the first round. If you take the top 5 (arguably) goaltenders in the world:

    Price 5
    Lundqvist 205
    Rinne 258
    Rask 21
    Quick 72

    Their average draft position is 112th overall. That doesn’t mean sometimes you shouldn’t draft a goalie in the 1st round if it’s great value, but it does mean that often you can get a guy who is really good late, so you should always lean away from it.

    Top 5 forwards in the world (arguably):

    Crosby 1
    Toews 3
    Ovechkin 1
    Malkin 2
    Stamkos 1

    The average spot drafted here is 1.6. That means to get these guys you need to take them early. I get that there are quality forwards outside the 1st round, but the elite guys generally go top 3.

    Top 5 defensemen in the world (arguably:

    Weber 49
    Keith 54
    Giordano undrafted 211
    Doughty 2
    Hedman 2

    The average spot here is 64th.

    These aren’t hard and fast rules, obviously value and scouting come into it. If you can get a top 3 goaltender in the 3rd round you draft that player. If you’re drafting in the top 15 and you’re getting a top 3 goaltender you pass.

    • The Fall

      I believe that you can take two main points from the history of drafting goalies:

      1-You will have to draft a lot more of them if you only take them in the second half of the draft. Less than 4% will become starters as opposed to about over 20% in the first 2 rounds. Keep in mind the limited development spots you have for goalies; you would like them to be taken by a worthy prospect.

      2-Goalies aren’t as much voodoo as they are made out to be; if you take a player higher in the draft regardless of position they are more likely to be successful. There are simply less spots and less leeway for goalies then forwards or defence.

  • DoubleDIon

    I’m all for calling out people for drafting goalies in the 1st round for drafting them too early, but to say it’s too early to draft a goalie in the 3rd round is a joke Ryan. You can’t draft all your goalies in the 7th round. Not everyone is going to pull a Lundqvist out of a draft round that doesn’t even exist anymore.