It feels pretty surreal, with all the things that have happened in my career the past couple days. It’s been a pretty cool experience and a pretty fun ride. It’s happened pretty quickly -- everything the last couple days -- but that’s how the hockey world works. - Jon Gillies
VANCOUVER, BC -- An NCAA Championship hasn’t slowed down what has been a whirlwind season for Jon Gillies.
And in many ways, he’s just getting started.
After backstopping Providence College to their first Frozen Four title on school history, the Friars goaltender quickly put the pen to paper and signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the Calgary Flames, getting a first-hand glimpse at the National Hockey League life as his new team took Game 1, and home ice advantage, against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.
“It feels pretty surreal, with all the things that have happened in my career the past couple days", said Gillies, who in signing with the Flames opted to forgo his senior season at Providence College. "It’s been a pretty cool experience and a pretty fun ride."
It’s happened pretty quickly -- everything the last couple days -- but that’s how the hockey world works.”
Gillies, originally selected in the third round (No. 75) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, capped his collegiate career with a 49-save performance to earn the National title. It followed up a junior season that saw the 21-year-old post a 24-13-2 record with a 2.01 goals against average and .930 save percentage -- tops among Hockey East goaltenders.
He was honoured as the 2014-15 Hockey East Goaltender of the Year, and he was named the NCAA Division 1 Tournament Most Outstanding Player in leading Providence through the Frozen Four.
Despite the accolades, Gillies is with the Flames primarily to observe.
“Trust me, we are not all on one knee. The Messiah didn’t show up here today,” Flames general manager Brad Treliving said Wednesday. “This is a young guy who we think will have a great experience over the course of the playoffs, but he’s just starting his career. There’s no pressure on Jon to come in and be the blessed one.
“Being in the atmosphere, it’s a great experience.”
There’s the thought, though, that Gillies could evolve into a goaltender that can backstop the Flames like he did for the Friars through three seasons.
Over his 108-game NCAA career, the 6-foot-6, 225-pound netmidner recorded 60 wins, 13 shutouts, a 2.08 goals against average and a .931 save percentage.
There’s plenty to like in his game, Treliving suggested.
“The first thing you notice is his size, but this guy is very athletic,” Treliving said. “It’s a really unique combination for a guy that big to be that athletic, but he doesn’t just rely on being big. He’s a real great athlete, so he’s able to move, has the athleticism around the crease.”
Gillies now has the championship pedigree, too.
“He went through that experience of carrying a team to a championship,” Treliving said. “Being able to play in big games and being on big stages, those are experiences you don’t replicate. It’s not just the game itself — it’s everything that comes around it.
“Jon played a national championship game in Boston against BU, on a big stage. Those are things that you can look back at as his career goes on and be able to lean on. Having guys who have won, I think, is really important.”
The win crossed off one goal for Gillies.
The signing, another.
Capping what has been an incredible run of late for the goaltender.
“It's a lot of dreams coming true at one time,” he said. “It's been amazing.”