One year ago, Jon Gillies was the Flames’ best goaltending prospect looking to make his mark in the pros after a spectacular college career. And now… well nothing much has changed. Gillies played just seven games for the Stockton Heat before being shut down for season-ending hip surgery.
Brad Treliving’s addition of Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson means Gillies will get at least another development year at the AHL level. How Gillis does this year will likely dictate what management does on the goaltending front next. If he can dominate on the farm, Gillies will likely displace one of the incumbents on the parent club next year.
He comes in at #3 on our Top 20 Prospects. Last year, he was #2.
Gillies was picked in the third round back in 2012, a towering 6’6″ puckstopper out of the USHL. He jumped right into the starter’s role with the Providence Friars (Mark Jankowski’s team) as a freshman, posting an elite .931 SV%. He never wavered from that performance level, starting a vast majority of the games for providence over his three year career, and always posting a .930 or better save percentage.
In 2015, Gillies was the main reason the Friars won the NCAA National Championships, where he was named the most valuable player of the tournament. By the end of his college tenure, Gillies had been named the Hockey East Rookie of the Year, the Hockey East Goaltending Champion, the NCAA National Rookie of the Year, as well as Team USA’s starter at the World Junior Hockey Championships.
Read more: FlamesNation Player Evaluations: Jon Gillies
Recently it came to light that Gillies was playing through injury near the end of his time in college and it was the same, lingering injury that caused him to tap out and get surgery last year. The good news is Gillies should be even better now that he isn’t playing through pain.
Ryan Huska talked to us about Gillies and noted his struggles with chronic pain:
“It was a tough situation for him because he never felt comfortable, right from the beginning portion of the year. That’s why we as an organization decided to get the surgery done sooner than later for him. It’s a tough one for us because he was a guy that we were gonna look to carry a lot of the games for us, but now he’s coming back.
“He’s 100% healthy now and really feeling good about things as well, which will be really good for us. I think having that big, solid goaltender provides your team with a little bit more confidence so they know if they happen to make a mistake we’ve got a guy in there that can bail us out. So I think he’s gonna have that ability and he’s gonna get pushed as well, we’re going to have another good goaltender with us so it’s going to be interesting to see how they both end up developing here.”
Next, Flames Player Development Coach Ray Edwards discussed Gillies’ performance during his cup of coffee in the AHL and what his future might hold:
“Obviously very impressed with the short body of work that we saw in Stockton, and he did that playing in a lot of pain. He was trying to figure out if he could play through it. He put up pretty good numbers in a short sample size playing in a lot of discomfort.
“He wants to play in Calgary. He wants to make the team and he wants to be an NHL goalie as quickly as he can, but there’s a progression to it. He’s only played eight games of pro hockey. There are some building blocks that are still there. I wouldn’t put it by him to come into camp and turn a lot of heads and make people make some tough decisions. He has that ability. He’s an elite goaltender and now that he’s healthy, the sky’s the limit for him.”
What Comes Next?
It’s very simple.
Jon Gillies needs to stay healthy and play a full year at the AHL level. The team is more or less waiting for him to ascend to the show and become the Flames’ starter, but it’s not going to happen until he makes his mark at the minor league level first.
Johnson and Elliott are set to be Calgary’s crease duo this season but both are on one-year deals. If Gillies can replicate his college success in the AHL, he’ll likely have room and opportunity to take the next step in 2017-18.
|#20 – Ryan Culkin||#19 – Linus Lindstrom|
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|#16 – Brett Pollock||#15 – Matthew Phillips|
|#14 – Dillon Dube||#13 – Emile Poirier|
|#12 – Brett Kulak||#11 – Mark Jankowski|
|#10 – Brandon Hickey||#9 – Daniel Pribyl|
|#8 – Adam Fox||#7 – Tyler Parsons|
|#6 – Andrew Mangiapane||#5 – Oliver Kylington|
|#4 – Rasmus Andersson|