FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects 2018: #9 Jon Gillies

Drafted six years ago, Jon Gillies’ career, to date, has featured its fair share of ups and downs. Throughout college he was phenomenal, but the adjustment to pro – and, indeed, to playing in the NHL – has been a bit more rocky.

As one of the best goalies available to the Flames, though, he could find himself regularly in the NHL sooner rather than later. The 6’6, 223 lb. 24-year-old goalie clocks in at ninth on our 2018 top prospects list, up two spots from his 11th ranking in 2017.

How did we get here?

When the Flames selected Gillies in the 2012 draft, he was coming off of a pretty decent USHL season, having improved his earlier .906 save percentage over 25 games with the Indiana Ice to .915 (fifth best in the league) in 53 games. Then, it was off to three remarkably consistent seasons of NCAA play at Providence College – season save percentages of .931, .931, and .930, including a Frozen Four championship in his final year – plus two World Juniors appearances, one as a starter (with a .892 save percentage over four games, but you know how much to trust small sample sizes).

That set the stage of high expectations for Gillies’ first professional season in 2015-16. Unfortunately, after just seven games – good games, featuring a .920 save percentage – he required hip surgery that ended his season.

Take two for Gillies’ time as a pro came in 2016-17, during which he played 39 games as the Stockton Heat’s starter, posting a not-as-promising .910 save percentage (behind undrafted teammate David Rittich by .014 points with just eight more games played), ranking seventh amongst AHL rookies, and tied for 37th overall (with former Flame Reto Berra, amazingly enough). He also posted a .915 save percentage over three playoff games before the Heat were knocked out in the first round.

Gillies also made his NHL debut in 2016-17, stopping 27 of 28 shots for a .964 save percentage in a meaningless late season game. It wouldn’t quite set the stage for his following season.

Stats, numbers, and everything therein

In 2017-18, Gillies’ overall AHL performance improved from the previous year, and injuries gave him the chance to get in more NHL games.

League Games played SV%
AHL 39 .917
NHL 11 .896

In the AHL, Gillies was the team’s primary starter, and had the 17th best save percentage among goalies with at least 15 games played.

In the NHL, his first game was a relief effort in the midst of a blowout that unfairly knocked his save percentage down a few points. His final four games were also four of the Flames’ five final games of the year, after which they had been eliminated from playoff competition, making them pretty meaningless. Of the remaining six games he played, one was a relief appearance in a slightly less disastrous blowout.

So, in Gillies’ five meaningful starts at the NHL level, he posted save percentages over .920 three times and under .900 twice.

His even strength save percentage over his 11 NHL games, however, was .886.

For a deeper dive into Gillies’ numbers, revisit Christian Tiberi’s writeup on him here.

Those in the know

Cail MacLean, Stockton’s former assistant coach and new head coach who worked with and saw Gillies throughout his AHL days this past season, is pretty excited about what’s to come for the young goalie:

I think that Jon basically just needs to continue to work the process and continue to find those small gains in his games. When I look at Jon as a goaltender he gives coaches confidence because he understands the position, he takes up a lot of net, but at the same time he has athleticism to utilize in situations where necessary, and he’s got a good calm demeanour in net. I think there’s so many positive things. He’s going to be a great goaltender. It’s a matter of him staying with the process, making those little adjustments through his goaltending coaches, and continuing to improve along the path that he’s been on and I think he’s going to make that jump.

And of course, our resident Stockton’s Finest, who has had the chance to watch Gillies more often than the rest of us:

I have been critical of “glove side high” most of the year, but I still think he is the third best goalie in the system. When he is on his game, he is tough to beat. He has tunnel vision and stays in the moment. But once he gives up a soft goal, he tends to let in a few more before getting back to his normal self. He is slow back to his skates after he goes down.

On the horizon

From training camp on, it’s going to be a big season for Gillies. This doesn’t have to be his make or break season: the Flames extended him for another two years, making him the only goalie in the organization with notable professional experience currently signed through 2019-20, so there’s still a bit of time.

But the sooner Gillies can start proving himself an NHL-level regular, the better for both him and the Flames. There’s a backup job open this season, and potentially a starter’s for the next. If Gillies can establish himself over the course of 2018-19, then that may solve a lot of problems on the horizon. If he can’t, then that does leave a window open for him – but may also force the Flames to look at other options by next summer’s time as well.

He can still be the team’s goalie of the future, and while his performances since he became a pro may not be as encouraging as his college years, there’s been continued growth. There’s still plenty of promise there.

#20 – Martin Pospisil #19 – Demetrios Koumontzis
#18 – Emilio Pettersen #17 – Filip Sveningsson
#16 – Milos Roman #15 – Dmitry Zavgorodniy
#14 – D’Artagnan Joly #13 – Adam Ruzicka
#12 – Linus Lindstrom #11 – Glenn Gawdin
#10 – Morgan Klimchuk


  • Fan the Flames

    Jon didn’t show he could handle NHL shooters last year . I hope he can make the next step but we will see how he looks in camp and preseason . What we do know is Coach Peters has a pretty low tolerance for poor goaltending.

  • Off the wall

    I have watched every episode of “Mayday” there is on tv.
    I’m fascinated by large objects in the sky and amazed by the aerodynamic’s that allows them to get airborne.

    I’m hoping Gillies.. our big guy with arms as long as a Jets wingspan, gets airborne this season and stays there.

    I don’t want to see another crash, our goalie runway is not long enough..

    • Off the wall


      Well, here’s one.
      I have a crappy Landlord. I call him “two thirds Tyler”. You’ll understand why.
      Just so you know, I probably won’t own a home when the median price is close to $900,000 here. Yah, it’s ridonkulous.

      So, I have been after my landlord to install blinds in the house we rent. He lives downstairs from us, it’s not like he has to travel.

      Well 6 months go by, still no blinds… Just excuses. “I’ve ordered them, they haven’t come in yet.”
      “ Where did you order them from, The Congo,? says otw “
      He didn’t like that. And I didn’t like my lack of privacy.

      So I figured I’d take matters a little further. Every day, before he left for work, I’d stand in front on the HUGE bay window, happily wearing nothing but my underwear and waving goodbye to him as he left. The first day he laughed, he thought it was funny. After two weeks of doing this, it was no longer funny, it was quite disturbing to him.
      Great, he was no longer enjoying the show!

      “ We have neighbors Otw, maybe try putting on some clothes?”
      “ Why, I said, “don’t you like my body?” This is how I wake up.I stretch, I fart a bit and then go make coffee. Of course if I had blinds, you wouldn’t have to see my sexy body every morning “

      I had blinds installed within a few days of that conversation.
      Sometimes, you gotta take matters into your own hands, or in my case.. well you know.

      I’m not sure how this correlates to hockey, however I believe Treliving didn’t like the look of our team, so he took matters into his own hands. Blinds can be open or closed. Thankfully, I keep them closed in the early morning. However, once I’m dressed, they are fully open.

      Like Treliving, you gotta keep them open if you expect to see what’s going on around you..

      Gillies has his chance, Tre opened up the way for him for 2 years. Seize the day Gillies!
      We don’t need to see you in your gonch..

  • buts

    Another tall. large goalie like Hiller, Barra and Lack who’s on his knees all the time and doesn’t use athleticism to stop pucks but rather there size. Terrible puck tracking and didn’t deserve a 1 way deal in the second year of his contract. How he got a 2 year deal and Rittich who is a better a 1 year is confusing. He is a management favorite because he was a high draft choice. Not addressing a solid backup unless rectified will be the teams achilles heal this year.

    • Cfan in Van

      Funny how they talk about his high level of athleticism in the article, and that attribute has been noted here several times (I’ve also noticed it during his NHL stints), yet you knock him for that in your comment. He’s a goalie prospect, and those don’t always pan out immediately.

      I honestly think that outside of being Matt Murray, there’s not much that Gillies could do to earn your appreciation.

    • Cfan in Van

      I definitely like Fargo way better then discussing goalie prospects. That’s for damn sure. The ultimate exercise of “who the hell knows what will happen”. I guess it’s kinda like Fargo in that matter as well…

        • mrroonie

          You obviously haven’t looked at the timeline for a certain former Flames goaltender with the first name of Miikka who had a 14-21-3 NHL record and an .897 SV% when he was traded to the Flames 3 weeks after his 27th birthday.

          Although there are some goalies who are able to make it at a younger age, there are a lot of goalies who don’t hit their prime until their late 20s.

          For example, when he reached his 26th birthday, Pekka Rinne had played fewer games than Rittich has. Rinne’s AHL win% was 56.6 and save% was .909 while Rittich’s was 56.4 and .915. I’m not saying that Rittich is the next Rinne, but to give up on him because he turns 26 in a couple of days is definitely premature.

        • Squishin

          Rittich could still be a serviceable backup in the league even if you believe that he’ll never be a starter due to his age. I think the jury’s still out on him though. We’ll know in two years.

    • TradeBrodie

      Gillies is o e year older than Rittich..not sure how that applies. I myself fo not have a lot of faith in Rittich or Smith. I hope Gillies comes in and does what Connor Helleybuyck did last season.

  • Garry T

    We have six goaltenders. Maybe we should have a rule change where the Flames could use 3 at a time for every game. Then , we MIGHT be able to stop pucks. Or Fire Sigalet!

  • Just.Visiting

    I like some of the things I’ve seen and not so keen on playing from his knees so much and some of the difficulties we’d seen on long shots. The latter made me wonder if there might be a vision problem.

    • Kevin R

      We noticed that at games Gilles played as well, he drops to his knees real real quick, almost as soon as the opposition forward hit the blueline. I know he’s big but until he figures out how to feel comfortable standing, big league forwards are going to manipulate that.

  • FL?MES

    Assuming that Peters does as expected and employs a system with more offensive zone pressure combine with better defensive coverage, one would assume that our goalies should be the main beneficiaries. If the team plays with confidence and allows fewer shots (especially high danger shots), this confidence should rub off on our goalies. A little extra confidence may be all that is needed for Gillies and/or Rittich to bust loose.

    I can’t wait for the season to start.

    Go ? Go!!!

  • Burnward

    Improved his save percentage by seven points and his GAA by half a goal from his first pro season.

    If he continues to chip away and improve he could be a really good one.

    Pedigree, size and now fully healthy. I’m not writing him off at all…voodoo and the such.

  • RealMcHockeyReturns

    Side note: in case you missed it, Sportsnet release TV schedule and the 2 games in China on it and actually watchable times (one is 12:30am MT on a Saturday night, one is 5AM MT on a weekday).

  • Jobu

    Jobu’s Cocoa Leaves tell him the following

    Based on the contract Gillies signed this offseason, the club expects him to be in the NHL next season. With that in mind, I suspect that Rittich gets the backup roll this year regardless of preseason outcome so Gillies can get in a lot of Pro games this year. Hell be called up and probably start over Rittich if Smith goes down with injury.

    With Rittich, I think the club is hoping he can prove he can operate successfully under a much larger workload. If he starts to steal Smiths starts (more than the given backup duty), then he’ll be signed for next year and play with Gillies as a 1A/1B (scary, Jobu knows). If not, then he wont be a Flame next year.

    Either way, Parsons gets a starters workload in the AHL next year. Backup role this year.

  • Greg

    I really thought the Flames would do something with their goaltending this off-season, but it looks like the plan is to stick with it and see whether Rittich or Gilles pan out. I’m actually ok with that because:

    A. What better option do they have really? Mason? Lehtonen? No thanks…

    B. How many goalie prospects have we given up on, only to see them later go on to have reasonably respectable careers elsewhere? You can’t just keep chasing shiny balls and hoping they’ll turn out better than the one you currently have.

    C. If things go side-ways, there’s actually a few decent trade options. Looks like about half the teams in the league have a decent 1B option they’d probably be willing to part with in exchange for a Rittich/Gilles + mid-round pick if needed. Or there’s specific ones you could target like Varlomov, Reimer, etc.

    Realistically, any of those are better Plan Bs than the UFAs available. I’d bet my bottom dollar BT came to the same conclusion and has already been working trade parameters should he need to pull the trigger.

    • Burnward

      I had a Finnish goalie buddy that swore Lehtonen was the best Fin goalie.

      Like, not even close in his mind. Slightly weird dude as goalies are, but he knew his stuff.

      • Flint

        In terms of pure talent, that case could be made. Lehtonen is a superbly talented individual, and he has every tool in the toolbox. “Best ever” is silly but he’s very skilled. In fact, that’s why he has been in the NHL so long, because if any other goalie had his string of injuries, bad luck, bad contract, bad teams and other behind-the-scenes issues they would have been gone long ago.

        Thing is, he’s damn good when he’s in shape, healthy and ready to play. He’s maybe a bit like the Alex Kovalev of goalies.

        You don’t make 13744 ev strength saves at a 923evsv% by accident. It’s not the best, but it’s very, very good.

        Those are better numbers than Mike Smith, Mark-Andre Fleury and Martin Brodeur to name a few. But they are quite far behind Tuukka Rask.

        • Flint

          I’ll add this. If Jon Gillies ever becomes the goalie that Kari Lehtonen is/was we should be very happy with that. I would say it’s about a 9 in 10 chance he doesn’t even come close. So, think of Lehtonen what you do, but the vast majority of keepers taken in the first three rounds never play even a quarter of the NHL games Lehtonen has.

  • Cheeky

    I hope Gillies seizes the moment and dominates the AHL this year forcing the Flames hands. If he trains this summer under a good goalie coach he should get back to utilizing his skills and size (not playing from knees). Also keep Sigalet far far away…

    • calgaryfan

      what do you know about Sigalet that says he is a bad coach? maybe it is the goalies who are the issue, the Flames keep bringing in goalies other teams do not want!

        • mrroonie

          Is that condemnation of the calibre of his coaching or the calibre of goalies that have come through the revolving door?

          Looking at the goalies he had when he was with Abbotsford, there wasn’t much there to work with.

          With the Flames he’s had 10 goalies in 4 years:

          Hiller, Backstrom, Elliott and Smith all fit into the old dog/new tricks mould with only Hiller being with him for more than one season.

          Other than a single game each the year before last, both Rittich and Gillies just completed their first season with him. Not a big enough sample size to get a good reading.

          Johnson was only with the team for one season and Lack didn’t last half that long.

          Ramo’s stats remained steady from his one season before Sigalet came up. His record got worse from 2014-15 to 2015-16 but so did Hiller’s and Ortio’s. I’d say less of a coaching thing than a team in front of them thing.

          Ortio is the only goalie that he had with the Heat and the Flames. He had decent numbers in the AHL but wasn’t able to translate that to NHL success. Is that a failure on Sigalet’s part, possibly, but more likely a player who had reached his ceiling.

  • Raffydog

    I don’t see this guy ever becoming an nhl caliber goalie. For such a big guy he plays really small, lets in soft goals far to often and doesn’t seem to track the puck very well.

  • everton fc

    I think Rittich will be fine, as our backup. I’m actually looking forward to him being our backup.

    Pickard would be a goalie I might inquire about, though…

      • Getpucksdeep

        Pickard and McIllehny both sucked at the Worlds last spring. No way Pickard is the answer. I still maintain if the goal is a Stanley Cup then you’d better hope one of our 3 good goal prospects blossoms. Most Cup winners developed their goalies. Note: Anderson in TO and Talbot in Edm are both “traded for” goalies FWIW We are fortunate to have 3 kicks at the can.

  • Thunder1

    Everyone’s starting to pick the Leafs with Tavares as Cup ‘faves… me too! What about you left-coast laffies seeing the canuckleheads at 12,500 to one odds… hope you get sportsnet west!

  • Jagrrrrr, baby. Yeah.

    Why does the consensus seem to be that Sigalet is a bad goalie coach? I get that there have been a string of goalie disappointments, and the simplest logic is to pick the 1 common thread of Sigalet. That makes sense. But is there a reason other than that? Like “goalies A, B, D, and F were good before Sigalet, then bad after”?
    Just curious because I don’t know from goalies.

    • Cheeky

      As with players, coaches also have ceilings. Not trying to bash Sigalet however there has not been 1 successful goalie under his watch in Cgy. He was a good WHL and AHL coach but his style – drop to your knees and cover the net allows teams to shoot and score high. Watching goalies do this constantly (Johnson, Hiller, Gillies, MacDonald, Ortio, etc…) tells me that is his style passed onto players. It doesn’t work. Lots of promising guys haven’t/aren’t working out, coaches have come and gone, goalies have come and gone yet he still remains. We moan about the goaltending blaming the goalies (defense takes partial blame as far as I’m concerned), but the goalie coach gets a pass? We envy teams with great goalies (and teams that have successful upbringing of goalies such as Wash, LA and TB), but fail to recognize that they also have good coaches for these goalies.

      Some on here blamed the players over GG last year until it was obvious the problem was GG (good AHL coach and assist NHL coach but that’s his ceiling). How many “potential starter” prospects do we need to see faulter playing a scrambly, playing from knees style before it’s realized we need someone else to take these guys to next level…

  • Getpucksdeep

    Rittich seemed to be stellar “when it was all going well” and when the pressure was on he lost focus. Gillies may be better overall but he has to get that mental sharpness aspect of his game in order. IMHO in the days of Dryden=standup and Esposito=butterfly are over. The system now appears to be to teach them to be “hybrids”. Both goalies played well enough in stretches that I can’t making a trade for roll of the dice goalie. Better to keep working these guys while we still have Smith.

    • Vernon30

      Parsons, Gilles, and Rittich all have the tools. They wouldn’t be here, if the didn’t. At the NHL level, it’s nearly all mental. The guys who succeed have immense confidence and the ability to bounce back. The quicker they can make adjustments after their weaknesses are exposed, the more success they have. Rittich has the swagger and is a fighter. Those are great signs. At this point, Gilles looks a little more sheepish.

  • Garry T

    Jäger Baby. … we have six goalies in the system. Everyone drafted were highly skilled at that point. All are under the ultimate stewardship of Sigalet. All carried a 910 save percentage or better. All have regressed and some to the point that those save percentages are in the high 880s which is major regression. I and others are not picking on Sigalet. He is creating his own firestorm. The Flames like the guy for some reason, but if they looked closer they would see abject failure on the part of our goalie prospects. One guy out of six going backwards I can understand. All six, that is brutal

    • supra steve

      Any goaltender who gets drafted is “highly skilled”, most of them never reach the top level.

      What are your qualifications to judge a goalie coach?

      If the tenders are happy with the guy, and I can only assume they are, then who are any of us to judge? If the tenders are not happy with him, then yeah, get rid of him.

      • Cheeky

        Suprasteve – the players liked GG, should we have kept him then? I know calgaryfan (aka Sigalet) will trash this but sometimes it’s more than just being a nice guy. Also imagine a prospect (who has no power) complaining to management about the goalie coach they hired – I’m sure that will go well for them…

        • supra steve

          Or, could go something like this…at exit meetings at season’s end, each player gives an extensive (and honest) take on the entire coaching staff. Not is he a “nice guy”. More like is this coach contributing to you becoming a better player on a weekly basis, and how does he do so? This is not a prospect complaining, this is the Flames asking for an honest and not sugar coated opinion. None of us have any of this information, the club certainly does have it.

          Would GG have come out of that kind of a meeting with universally positive reviews? Well, he got himself fired, so I really doubt it.

        • supra steve

          It’s easy to just assume the actions of others that you may not entirely understand are due to stupidity. Sometimes the actions would look a whole lot more understandable, if we had all the information that the decision makers have.