The Calgary Flames made a sensible decision several years ago, in a draft that now, in hindsight, had several missteps. Standing out from that is one superb decision: drafting Jon Gillies, a goalie who, year after year, has impressed countless souls who've seen him become one of the top goalies in college hockey.
After an era of Finnish supremacy from Miikka Kiprusoff to a few years of nearly tire fire level goaltending, the Flames have some stability now in Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo. In a couple of years, it's going to be Joni Ortio and Gillies hopefully chomping at the bit. All of which potentially could kick off an era of Calgary Flames hockey in which they've drafted and developed a starter - the first in well over a decade.
He's a hulking goalie, too: 6'5 and 216lbs, with premier athleticism, he is among the best goalie prospects in the world. Recently receiving praise from ESPN Insider Corey Pronman, Gillies came in 8th on Pronman's list of the top goalie prospects in the NHL. Greg Balloch of In Goal Mag placed him 10th overall, praising his ability to learn. The potential logjam is a good thing, making goaltending one of the few areas the Flames don't need to stress over in the immediate future.
Note: You'll need to be an ESPN Insider to see Pronman's analysis on Gillies.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Draft||2014-15 Team||Vote Total|
||01/22/94||75th overall, 2012
||Providence College (NCAA)||141|
In 2011-12, Gillies saw his first taste of representing Team USA as he took over as the starter in the Ivan Hlinka tournament. The USA didn't medal, though he did start four games with modest results. Gillies finished the season with his USHL team, the Indiana Ice, posting a very respectable 31-20 record and .915 save percentage. The Ice made it to the Eastern Conference finals, falling to eventual champion Green Bay.
After getting drafted by the Flames, as a college freshman, Gillies became the starter of the Providence Friars, taking a huge leap forward in his performance. Again, chosen to represent Team USA, the Americans won gold with Gillies in a backup role to Anaheim's John Gibson. Gillies' phenomenal play with the Friars helped vault them to the semifinals, falling to Lowell eventually.
As a sophomore, Gillies was regarded as one of the very best in Hockey East. Because of this, he joined Team USA at the WJC. Unfortunately, the Americans finished fifth after a dismal defeat at the hands of Russia. Undeterred, his play continued to improve as the Friars made it to the regional finals, falling to Union College.
In what would be his final season in college, Gillies and the Friars took a huge leap forward winning the Frozen Four over Jack Eichel's Boston University squad. Throughout the 2014-15 season, Gillies took leaps forward, which inevitably impressed the management team in Calgary as they signed him only days after the tournament ended.
Strengths and weaknesses
With the size and frame he possesses, Gillies been very efficient at clogging and preventing second chances. As he's matured with Providence, his ability to play angles has worked out in his favor. Initially using a butterfly style, Gillies adopted new-era stances of VH, which added to his versatility in net. Despite his frame, he's quick with strong reflexes and ability to recover, even in the most unusual of circumstances:
The only remaining areas revolve around skating ability and becoming acquainted with AHL- and NHL-level shooters. Both opportunities present themselves as easy on paper, but could take some time, as the jump to the AHL is still a big one.
Future role with the Flames
As mentioned previously, the end-game is a role on the Flames; as a starter, if possible, of which he has the potential and an already existing foundation to make happen. Brad Treliving has shown his hand already with regards to the structure of goaltending: short-term deals as stop-gaps until the youth is ready to take over.
With Ortio's history showing slight inconsistencies at times, it's up to Gillies to capitalize on that and push himself ahead in the depth charts. However, his immediate future is in Stockton, with the chance (like Ortio) for call-ups, given injury or trade.
Expectations for 2015-16
The inaugural season of AHL hockey in Stockton is very likely to see a goalie battle of sorts. Both Ortio and Gillies will be vying for as much starting time as possible. With Ortio's previous experience with Calgary's other pro affiliates, both ECHL and AHL, it'll make things all the challenging for Gillies. Given the praise he has received for his ability to learn, a young but talented AHL team is a great environment for him.
He is a promising player with a bright future ahead of him and fans should be excited. He is just one exceptional young man, helping bring a brighter tomorrow to the organization.
Earlier on the list
#25 - Ryan Culkin // #24 - Hunter Smith // #23 - Pavel Karnaukhov // #22 - Garnet Hathaway // #21 - Kenny Agostino// #20 - Mark Jankowski // #19 - Bill Arnold // #18 - Kenney Morrison // #17 - Andrew Mangiapane // T-#14 - Mason McDonald // T-#14 - Brandon Hickey // T-#14 - Rasmus Andersson // #13 - Tyler Wotherspoon // #12 - Oliver Kylington // #11 - Morgan Klimchuk // #10 - Markus Granlund // #9 - Drew Shore // #8 - Joni Ortio // #7 - Micheal Ferland // #6 - Emile Poirier