FlamesNation prospect wrap-up: Jon Gillies

Since it’s Top 20 Prospect season here at FlamesNation, let’s take a stroll down memory lane to 2015, when FN agreed that Jon Gillies was the #2 prospect in the Flames organization. This year, he received two 20th placed votes. We’ll let those writers speak for themselves, but I think they did it out of sympathy.

Prospects will always progress and regress. Development is never linear, and it’s not always upward.

At young-for-a-goalie 25 years of age, the discourse around Gillies suggests that he is probably done as a Flame. Is that a fair assessment, or was this just an extreme outlier of a year?

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When we last checked in

Believe it or not, but Gillies was actually looking pretty promising. He wasn’t able to get much done in his brief NHL call ups, but his AHL tenure suggested that he was pretty darn close. He finished the season in the upper tier of AHL goalies, and was one of the younger ones in that group.

2018-19 story

He allowed six goals in his first start of the season. From there, things just got worse.

There’s no use mincing words: Gillies struggled. The Stockton net started off as a competition between him and Tyler Parsons at the beginning of the season (Parsons was actually the game one starter. He allowed five goals), but neither of them were quality enough to definitively win the net. Parsons’ various injuries throughout the season essentially gave Gillies complete job security, but even with the pressure off, he was unable to do much.

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To his credit, he had a pretty good finish to the season, averaging a .919 SV% over his last 15 games. It was too late for the Stockton Heat, but it moved the season out of “total write-off” for Gillies.

Numbers & Growth

GP MIN SV% SV% rank among qualified goalies SA SA rank GA GA rank
2018-19 45 2479 0.889 42/47 1310 7/47 145 47/47
2017-18 39 2231 0.917 12/41 1130 13/41 94 11/41

So, yeah. Pretty bad.

His usage didn’t change that much from last season. He still saw a lot of shots relative to the rest of the AHL, but he just wasn’t able to stop them anymore. All of his bad habits were apparent and he really never got in the groove of things until late in the season.

Part of Gillies’ results may be because of the defence. Stockton infamously had all of their great rearguards plucked and were left with little to work with. That has to have some effect on his numbers, but they can’t explain all of them away.

Conversely, his second half numbers may have also had something to do with his defence. In late January, Gillies received a lifeline with the reassignment of Juuso Valimaki, who stayed with the Heat for every game except for their final game. While correlation is not causation, Gillies numbers pre-Valimaki (0.865 SV%) and post-Valimaki (0.909 SV%) are two different tales.

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If it’s faulty to ascribe Gillies’ struggles solely to the lacking defence, it’s also faulty to chalk up his success solely to the arrival of one player. Valimaki is very good, but he simply isn’t able to turn a goalie from one of the worst goalies to an alright one that’s trending upwards, no one is. Credit where credit’s due, Gillies was a better player as the year went on and as he saw the net more often, although he had help from Valimaki (if it really is all because of Valimaki, we may not be appreciating him enough).

Nevertheless, it doesn’t wipe away the bad, which was stunning. Last season, Gillies having bad nights was rare: only four of his starts finished below .850SV%. This season, he had 13 such appearances. He was just an all around worse goaltender this season.

What’s next?

What to do with Gillies is on Brad Treliving’s to-do list. It’s right at the bottom, but it’s on there.

The organization’s other moves this offseason have placed Gillies into the afterthought category. His contract -two-way for the 2018-19 season, one way for the 2019-20 season- was signed with the belief that he would be in the NHL by this point as a backup. Nope, that’s Cam Talbot’s job. If that didn’t work, he’d be in the AHL. Wait, Parsons and Artyom Zagidulin are both here. Hmmmm.

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The Flames do have space for Gillies: Zagidulin, Parsons, and Nick Schneider can all be moved to the ECHL (and truthfully, you can make a case for at least two of them to be there). They don’t need to trade him away, and it may be a bad move given the Flames’ goalie depth. Say what you will, but Gillies has NHL experience. He may not be a starter, or even a NHL backup, but he’s probably more reliable than Parsons and Zagidulin for an emergency stint.

Goalies are more volatile than players are on a year-to-year basis: it isn’t unheard of for goalies to hit rock bottom and then bounce back to being their normal selves. With maybe the worst track record of developing goalies around the entire league, an open backup position next summer, and Gillies being 25 years old, it really can’t hurt to try again for one more year to see if he can be something, especially if he’s still RFA at the end of the season. A trade to dump Gillies is not going to return anything of value, so might as well see what happens.

Though the Flames have been trying that for the past three seasons without any success. At some point, you have to pronounce it. Gillies’ professional career hasn’t been indicative of the type of goalie who becomes something at the NHL level, and his great finish to the season probably doesn’t change that.


Glenn GawdinDillon DubeMatthew Phillips | Tyler ParsonsAdam Ollas Mattson & Rinat ValievJosh Healey & Andrew Nielsen | ECHLersMartin PospisilEmilio PettersenDemetrios KoumontzisDmitry ZavgorodniyAdam RuzickaMilos RomanD’Artagnan Joly | Eetu TuulolaLinus Lindstrom | Filip Sveningsson | Pavel Karnukhov, Rushan Rafikov, Mitchell Mattson

  • Flaming Duck

    We won’t get any return for him, may as well hang onto him this year, even if he is in the ECHL. I had such high hopes for him, he hasn’t been the same since his hip issues and subsequent surgery. Plays tiny and that glove hand yuck. I still remember last season with the Flames and he let that shot in from near the centre line, that look of panic and fear in his eyes was telling- little confidence. I do hope he has a great year though as that is good for the Flames organization.

  • deantheraven

    Enigma. Conundrum. What a predicament!
    Jon Gillies may never be an NHL goalie. There, I said it.
    Now what about Parsons and Schneider?
    Ok, now I’m fully committed to Zagidulin o’er-stepping the Home Growns.
    I dareth to dream!

  • Albertabeef

    Okay so let me get this right. Okay so Talbot has a .892 save% and people say he played on two crappy teams with crappy Dmen. Gillies had almost no help by quality Dmen in Stockton but his .889save% shows no hope of an NHL career and Talbot’s does? Some real craziness going on round here.

      • HOCKEY83

        No he didn’t say that…he was just comparing the situations and I agree with Albertabeef on that one. Both gillies and rittich played like garbage for the flames and Stockton in 2017-18 but last season rittich was given the chance to show the flames something and gillies wasn’t. I’d like to see him play a few more games with a good D Corp in front of him. Otherwise I’d be happy to see him go somewhere else and succeed

      • TheBigChef

        That is a good point, but not the one you think you are making. There is very little correlation between AHL SV% and NHL SV%. Poor numbers in the AHL are very predictive in terms of telling whether a guy will be good in the NHL. Save percentage is a garbage stat altogether. There are better ways to evaluate goaltender performance.

        • Albertabeef

          Yes it is a relatively useless stat. Unfortunately it is used a whole bunch to show a goalies production. People are always going on and on about goalie save percentage. These media people tend to count +.900% games and such. Seems to be a popular stat and less hated than corzi lol.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Welcome to the Oilers and the seedy ice district Mike Smith. Can you improve upon sub 900 on a team with lesser defensive help? Talbot likely will improve but Smith will not. That’s a more valid comparison between teams and and their defensive help.

      • Theo/14

        How does a better defensive team help Talbot not let in the first shot of the game? Or help him with his infamous 1 goal per game from 50 feet out?
        Bottom line is Talbot has never proven to be a quality starting goaltender who has any mental toughness imo. So to think he can do it now is just being a little naive.

        • Flaming moe

          Very true little Theo. Everyone seems to forget cams biggest enemy was himself and he said so in many interviews. He let the first shot of the game in something like 12 times last year and same as the year before. He is also notorious for the one “weak” goal of the game from way out past the hash marks. That’s a killer for teams! Ask the coilers

          • Kevin R

            Vernon used to let an easy one a lot but we did win our Cup with him & he did win one with Detroit.
            Talbot was unbelievable that first year with the Oilers. Whose to say he doesnt play like that next year for us?

          • HAL MacInnis

            @ Kevin R: I remember Vernon being absolutely brutal some nights. I believe Dave Brown got 2 of his three goals one year on Vernon. Brown played three years for Edmonton and had only 3 goals the entire time with the Oilers.

        • The Iggy complex

          Other than the few years he was quality starter? He has great career numbers. One bad year on a terrible Oilers team. One can say is being naive thinking there is no way he rebounds. Because no one has ever had a bad year and rebounded

          • Albertabeef

            Gillies just never really got a decent chance. Even when he actually got Flames games in, the team was under a collapse because of GG. Gillies wasn’t even that bad for that handful of NHL games he played. But if the excuse is okay for one goalie, it should be okay for the other. If you have similar situations for two goalies, and their results were similar, their excuses should be accepted equally don’t you think? Regardless of league.

      • Albertabeef

        So you call me a Donkey and then post:”Not convinced this kid is down. Last season he dealt with sub par d all season and a weak defensive team. I really hope to see Gillies turn some heads at camp and be a dark horse to push for a spot.”
        Which says the same thing I said. You sir are a piece of work lol.

    • Stockton's Finest

      Here is a question that nobody can answer. How do you explain Schneider putting up a .922 SV% and a 2.46 GAA behind the same matador defense that Gillies played behind at the beginning of the season?

      I offered up a Tristan Jarry for Gillies trade since the offseason started. Jarry is also on a one-way for $675K. The Penguins have 2 young goalies on ELC’ s and Dustin Tokarski (who won the Calder Cup for the Checkers last season) in Wilkes Barre. Send Parsons to KC and have Jarry and Zags in Stockton.
      Not only are Jarry’s AHL numbers better than Gillies, his NHL stats are better and he is cheaper.

      • Albertabeef

        11 games is a pretty small sample size, and only 6 were full games. Compare this to Nick: Andrei Trefilov 1993-94 Calgary Flames NHL 11 3w 4L 2T 2.50GAA 0.915sv% 2 shutouts.

        He never came close to these rookie numbers ever again. Any player can catch fire for a few games. Even KC went with MacDonald mostly to end the season, that should say something.

        • JeraldinChapparal

          Andrea Trevilov did catch fire more than once. In 1993, while Jeff Reece was filling in miserably for the injured Mike Vernon in the playoffs, Trevilov was winning gold for Russia at the World Championships. Why Risebrough let him go after he had a good season for Salt Lake is beyond me. Flames led the Kings 2 games to 1 when Vernon got hurt if I recall. Kings went on to the final. Another great regular season with Dave King wasted.

      • FlamesFanOtherCity

        I have to agree about swinging for Jarry. We’ve seen what Gillies can do. He wasn’t able to beat out Rittich in Stockton nor in Calgary. Possibly include Gillies in a package with Brodie or Frolik, or just one for one. I would tend to give Parsons and Zagidulin the net in Stockton first. Let them at least think they are more than afterthoughts. Jarry can light it up in Kansas and then alternate with Parsons. I would even consider loaning out Parsons or Jarry, just to have different coaching involved. Just keep an eye on it.

  • Loud_voices

    I feel like keeping him for one more year is worth it. You won’t get any game changers for trading him and any draft pick would basically just be worthless. You have nothing to loose by keeping him and everything to gain. He had 1 bad year, chances of him bouncing back are pretty good. That being said I’m not sure if he will ever be a #1 NHL goalie, but I would much rather have him as a third string than guys with no experience what so ever.

    • benfr

      I would offer a reason to not keep him with Stockton. It would congest the situation to have 3 goalies on hand. They generally only play 2 games per week. If you have 3 goalies you would not be able to give ample game time to Parsons or Zagidulin who need games to develop. Time to see what we have there.
      Gillies has had many chances; played ahead of Rittich in spite of his stats being poorer than Rittich, had the net primarily to himself last year.
      Hopefully they can loan him to another AHL team to avoid overcrowding the net in Stockton and hampering the development of our younger goaltenders.

  • HarveysFleaCollar

    Not convinced this kid is down. Last season he dealt with sub par d all season and a weak defensive team. I really hope to see Gillies turn some heads at camp and be a dark horse to push for a spot.

  • Burnward

    Pretty sure either he or Parsons are getting traded.

    With the Russian dude en tow they aren’t shipping him to the echl.

    No need for Gillies or Parsons to be there either.

    • Cfan in Van

      Where? 2 goalies already slated for Stockton. The likely told Zagidulin he’d be playing in the A, because he wouldn’t have signed if he was headed to the ECHL. So do they send Parsons to the ECHL so Gillies plays in Stockton? I say hell no, let’s see what Parsons has.

  • Budgie

    At some point a goalie drafted will have to be developed into an NHL goalie-Stockton hasn’t been sending many goalies up, Rittich played a half season in Stockton and came up-after two-four years of development then a goalies potential is sealed, Parsons, Schneider, MacDonald, and Gillies haven’t made the jump-=is it the way the Farm handles Goalies?

    • MiamiRedhawks

      Big part of the problem is that Gillies has been labeled as the golden child. I think the preferential treatment has been in the way of the others. Speaking of this, it’s a great conversation to talk about goalies in the AHL with SF over the years since being here in Stockton.

  • drogon

    I believe Zagidulin is at #3 on our depth chart, he played 102 games in professional leagues in Europe getting good results. I don’t think BT brought him over at 24 to have him play in the ECHL. The thing with Parsons is he can flip to the dark side at any time. Gillies could be our insurance policy for Parsons. Gillies market value is extremely low, only way he could be traded is being part of a package.

    • TheBigChef

      The guy has literally never played a game in North America and you are anointing him #3 on the depth chart? Good Lord.

      I don’t care if he plays in the ECHL or in the AHL or runs back to Russia. The best goalie should get the net and they should have to earn that spot. Zagidulin is no exception simply because he is the new guy.

  • MiamiRedhawks

    High Glove Side….Gives up bad rebounds and on the ice. The first of the the 7 games, was not impressive. he had good numbers because the D could clear the rebounds. Bad rebounds and being on the ice is what he does. Giving him another year is too late. Last year was the year to trade him while he had any value. We gave him another year instead and that value is gone. Been time to move on years ago. Just basing this off of going to Stockton Arena since 2011.

    • Kevin R

      Agree & I came to my conclusion at the few games I saw him at the Dome. He was on his knees before the opposing forward even entered the blueline. Too many scary moments with him & not enough game saving stops that a young goalie needs to have to break into this league. He may be a good add on for a trade to a team that might want a little more goalie depth.

      • MiamiRedhawks

        I think one thing that people like are his wild saves, as you said he’s on his knees quickly. Well when you are out of position, those kind of saves happen.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Why oh why do you want to continue contaminating the club with Oiler filth? Both Talbot and Lucic’s careers were destroyed by the Oil and the same thin appears to be happening to the Finn. Unchecked disease spreads. Don’t bring more of it here.

        • Captain Ron

          Yeah we will really miss those 4 guys:
          Neal…malcontent that never fit in. You can have that coat tail rider.
          Smith….old and now injury prone we sure ruined him after he arrived
          Lazar…..Ottawa reclaim project that no one else wanted. Great smile though!
          Foo….not going to make the NHL full time and wouldn’t even crack the Oiler’s roster

      • TheBigChef

        For starters the biggest issue with looking at an AHL goalie is the stats available are limited to SV% and the games aren’t televised. But at the NHL level statistical analysis can now far transcend mere SV%. The biggest things to look for in a goalie prospect, in my opinion, are (1) puck tracking and consistency of tracking throughout an entire game; (2) skating and edgework, (3) athleticism, and (4) ability to read the play. If these things are covered, talent is more easily transferable to higher levels. Even if SV% is lower than another guy who is not as good at those four things.

        Save percentage is flawed because it treats all shots the same. A shot is a shot and a goal is a goal, regardless of context or how it went in. Anyone with any reasonable understanding of the game would agree that a 2-on-1 or a pass to the slot from below the goal line are not the same as an unscreened floater from the point or a dump-in from center. Yet SV% treats them as equal. And we have data at the NHL level now to prove that bad quality shots and good quality shots don’t even themselves out league-wide. It’s not a fair assumption to say a goalie from one team faces the same number of good and bad quality shots as a guy from another team, and so comparing SV% of a goalie on one team with those of another is a flawed process. It doesn’t mean it’s altogether useless, and the raw numbers still definitely matter, but we need context if we are going to take any value from it. I think most people would agree Thomas Greiss is not anywhere close to as good as Carey Price. But his SV% would suggest he is.

        Available NHL stats have come much farther and we are starting to get to a point where we can adjust save/goal metrics based on context and quality. We can then compare a goalie’s sv% based on the league average % of shots that go in from that distance and that in that scenario (ex. if there was a pass across, what shot distance it came from, whether there was a screen etc.). If you’re truly interested in reading up on this stuff, I highly suggest Clear Sight Analytics and looking at some of the stuff they are doing, because I think they are ahead of the game when it comes to goalie statistics.

        For stats that are generally available to the public, I would focus on Goals Saved About Average , expected save percentages, and break downs of high-danger/low danger changes in order to truly statistically analyze a goalie’s performance. It’s not perfect, but we’re getting there, and the stats that exist now show that relying on standard SV% misses the boat on telling a true story of performance. Context is absolutely critical.

        Hopefully one day these stats are more available for lower levels. But until that is the case I would put very little weight on a goalie’s save percentage in outside league’s. I can name a handful of guys who had bad SV% in the AHL before having success in the NHL. I can also name a handful of guys with spectacular numbers in the KHL who were complete duds in the NHL (many of whom played for the Flames).

        As your article mentions, Gillies was once considered our second best prospect. He didn’t just forget how to play. The talent is still there–the problem is that as each year passes the timeline for reaching his potential shrinks and there is less opportunity for development. I also think the hip injuries played a big part in delaying that development. But he should not be written off because of a poor SV% when for the better part of his season last year his best defenseman was Adam Ollas Mattson. I think this is probably close to his last year to prove himself, whether in Calgary or elsewhere, but we have not seen anything (**yet**) to suggest he should be any lower on the depth chart than Zagidulin (who has not even played a game in North America) or Schneider.

          • Budgie

            Agreed, even what is called a shot in the AHL is different, off ice officials a little lax-most goalies need playing time, no injuries and confidence to develop-if a goalie plays on a bad defensive team in the AHL his confidence goes

        • Thank you, very thoughtful comment.

          I do agree with you- lower leagues suffer from a lack of data. I don’t know if the AHL will ever catch up to the NHL in terms of quality tracking, but we have to work with what we have. And for what it is, sv% is a very handy statistic because it incorporates a large enough sample to reduce outliers. When you face 1300 shots as Gillies did, you are generally going to see every type of shot in every type of scenario, and at multiple points throughout the season. In that sample size, there is no mean to regress to, because you’re already at the mean.

          That’s the reason I don’t put any faith in Nick Schneider’s AHL performances: he saw fewer than 300 shots. That’s not enough to properly analyze a goalie. I also give the same consideration to Tyler Parsons: he saw half as many shots as Gillies. Not enough to judge his season or his future. You can also see this in Gillies’ own season: in the first half, he probably couldn’t even be an ECHL starter. In his second half, he could be knocking on the NHL door. The answer is obviously neither because you’re only judging him in ~650 shots blocks.

          In the larger scope, 1300 shots is plenty to judge his season. Against a 1300 shot sized sample, he was not great. There are very few goalies who play better or worse than they should over that time frame, and if you added another 650 shots to the sample, I doubt things would improve or get worse. It is fair to look at his career history and hope he’s not as bad as he was this season, but you would also have to admit that this season was an extremely poor outing from Gillies that can’t be ignored.

          Even if we took the time to break down all of the shots Gillies faced, I doubt we can find a category that paints a positive picture of him. Maybe he’s not the fifth worst goalie when looking at high, medium, or low danger shots, but I doubt that he’s suddenly top ten, or even in the top half of AHL goalies. Even if he was, the question becomes whether that means anything (i.e: if Gillies is somehow the best goalie facing high danger shots, what does that matter if he can’t stop more common medium or low danger shots?). This trend tends to hold true in the NHL: bad SV% goalies are generally also bad HDSV%, MDSV%, and LDSV% goalies, and also tend to have negative GSAA numbers. Ditto for good goalies. Context would be absolutely wonderful, but I doubt it changes much.

          So tl;dr, I do agree with you: it would be nice to have more information on Gillies, but when he’s been as bad as this, the larger stat speaks for itself.

          • TheBigChef

            That is reasonable point of view, but I disagree that his stats speak for themselves in anything other than in stating he had a poor SV% last year. There is so much more context that we don’t have. It very well could be true that he fell off a cliff and is awful. I’m not there yet and would rather give him the benefit of the doubt and give him a shot to prove it one way or the other.

            In a 1300 shot sample size you are right that you would hope things would balance out and he would find a way to make those saves. What we can’t tell is why he wasn’t. There was an interesting article in the Athletic not too long ago looking at the underlying context around Carey Price’s stats. Around that time he had a pretty serious drop in save percentage. In using CSA’s analytics they found there was a lot more to the story. They wen’t back and compared the contextual stats to game film and were able to determine that because Montreal’s defense was so devastatingly bad at giving up high-grade chances, Price started to develop bad habits. When that happened, both his raw stats and his advanced stats began to plummet. He was being exposed to so many “royal road” (cross-slot) plays that he began to cheat. Those bad habits ate away at every aspect of his fundamentals that make him the best goalie on earth. Once he got back to those fundamentals, his underlying stats recovered and he went back to having top-of-the-league GSAA.

            To look at his SV% and say he had a bad year is fine. But the number doesn’t tell us why he was bad. It’s possible that, like Price, a porous defense led to bad habits creeping into his game, which ultimately compounded with other bad habits and tore apart his confidence for a long stretch of time. A goalie without confidence may as well take the pads off and play the rest of the game as an extra attacker. But bad habits are fixable and don’t have anything to do with talent. A poor sv% in 3/4 of an AHL season does not tell us anything about his talent level and where he stacks up against the other guys in the system.

            By all means criticize the numbers. They are at the very least a flag to be monitored. But we also have to recognize the limitations of what that stat tells us.

  • Garth

    Both Gillies and MacDonald big time disappointments. Both should be playing in the NHL and making a name for themselves. Now we have to watch Thatcher Demko be a star with the Canuckheads…..

    • TheBigChef

      I wouldn’t necessarily call Gillies a big-time disappointment. He was a late third round pick. Expectations shouldn’t be too high given the probability of guys in that range becoming impactful NHL players.

      MacDonald would definitely qualify as a disappointment, but that’s on management more than the player in my opinion. That was a really bad pick. Demko was clearly the best goalie in the draft and was still on the board when they took MacDonald. It was clear at the time he was not an upper echelon prospect. But for some reason we took him with a high second pick even though there was no chance he was ever going to live up to that billing. He was taken 41 spots before Gillies was in his draft. MacDonald was destined for disappointment from the day he was drafted.

  • Widemans Anger

    Gillis will turn out to be a decent goalie when he get traded to another team, however Wolf is gonna blow the socks off all of them. My money is on Wolf, he seems to have something to prove and the talent to back it up.