By Torie Peterson
Everyone wants more minutes.
Whether it’s a forward, defenceman or goaltender, players wants to be on the ice as often as possible and for prospects, playing time is absolutely paramount when it comes to their development.
Jon Gillies certainly got his wish this past year.
“Overall, you sit back and look at your goalies at the start of the season and you want every single one of them to have the net and play,” Flames assistant GM Brad Pascall said. “Whether that’s in the ECHL in Kansas City, in the American League or in the NHL, especially for prospects, you want to them to play rather than sitting and backing up.
“In Jon’s case, I believe he played the 12th most minutes in the AHL last year for goaltenders and he was, at times, dominant in the American Hockey League – he can will the team to win.”
Gillies appeared in 39 games for the Stockton Heat in 2017-18, putting in 2230:38 of ice time in the AHL. He strung together a 17-16-5 record with a 2.53 GAA and a .917 save percentage. His four shutouts led all seven goaltenders who dressed for Stockton throughout the year, accounting for 67% of the team’s shutouts.
He also played in nine games with the Flames, going 3-5-1 with a 2.88 GAA and a .896 save percentage during his time in Calgary.
“I thought this season he was focused and determined to be in the NHL as much as he could be, waiting for that opportunity and when he got it, I thought he played really well,” Pascall assessed. “He played really well overall this year.
“We feel he’s one of the top goaltending prospects in the American Hockey League, he’s shown that, and we feel that when he had the opportunity to be in Calgary, he proved that he can belong.
“Now, it’s up to him to look to fight for a position full-time.”
The 24-year-old has the ability to block any and all distractions in games, keeping him focused on the next shot rather than dwelling on anything that happened earlier on. If things aren’t going the way he and the team would like, it doesn’t rattle him.
Outside of games, he doesn’t let anything he can’t control break his focus, either. The Flames’ goaltending situation last year saw both he and David Rittich spend time in Calgary for extended stints. Knowing he could only control his performance in practice and in the games he got into, he remained focused on his play.
“If you can block things out and play with poise, play with confidence, you’re going to give your whole team confidence,” said Pascall. “At the American League level, we had two guys who can do that, in Jon and David. The players in front of them are confident that they’re going to make those saves when needed. It makes everything go better in games.
“Jon definitely has that calm demeanor and that’s a good quality to have. It’s going to serve him well going into next season, when he’s making that push.”