Few Calgary Flames prospects have begun their professional careers with as much fanfare and anticipation as Jon Gillies did in 2015-16. Few faced such disappointment in their rookie season.
Coming to the Stockton Heat after a really, really great three-season run with the Providence College Friars, culminating with an NCAA championship victory, the hope was Gillies would be able to see a lot of pucks and adjust to the pro game.
He ended up playing just seven games due to a hip injury.
Gillies had a bit of an up-and-down fall. He was good in the Penticton prospect tournament, but suffered a concussion against the University of Calgary hockey team in a game held the day before main camp opened. His injury kept him off the ice for much of main camp, and is probably responsible for Nick Schneider getting signed.
Once he got back to 100%, he leaped into the fray for the AHL’s Stockton Heat. He started each of the first seven games for the Heat, going 2-3-1, before finally tapping out in the seventh game due to a recurring hip injury.
The 21-year-old Calgary Flames prospect had been dealing with hip
pain on his left side since his sophomore NCAA season with the
Providence Friars. But he managed it. Tension bands to strengthen the
muscles around his hip helped.
Then when his left leg went numb during an off-ice workout in the
summer of 2014, he underwent an MRI which revealed he had suffered an
anterior labrum tear and an impingement.
When he was in the line-up, Gillies’ consistency was all over the map. He had two shutouts, as well as games where he allowed 2, 3, 4 and 5 goals. He had two games where he made over 30 saves, and four when he made fewer than 25. To be fair, though, he was battling through his hip injury and dealing with a young team with an inexperienced blueline group that hadn’t played together a ton.
IMPACT ON TEAM
You never want to blame somebody’s injury for a team’s lack of success, but a full season of Gillies really would’ve stabilized the goaltending situation for the Heat. Without him, they turned to many, many different individuals:
- AHL backup Kent Simpson
- Karri Ramo, briefly demoted from the NHL
- Goalie coach Scott Gouthro, as an emergency backup
- ECHL veteran Eric Hartzell
- AHL veteran Kevin Poulin
- Joni Ortio, not-so-briefly demoted from the NHL
- ECHLer Pat Nagle
- ECHLer Josh Robinson
- ECHLer Mark Owuya
- 18-year-old Nick Schneider, up from the WHL to get his feet wet
Gillies easily would’ve been an upgrade over umpteen random netminders, and his absence contributed to chaos between the pipes all season as 10 guys tried (in vain) to give Stockton good enough goaltending. I mean, it got so bad that Schneider was their go-to guy in the spring and ended up playing more pro hockey this season than Gillies.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
Provided that he’s fully recovered by the fall, Gillies remains Calgary’s top goaltending prospect until somebody else proves otherwise. He’ll be expected to get the lion’s share of the starts for Stockton next season and could potentially see some games in the NHL depending on many, many factors.
The hope internally is likely that he plays a ton and is able to adjust to the pro game. He showed flashes of brilliance during his brief seven-game stint but they hope those flashes become the rule, not the exception, over a 68-game AHL season.