We’ve been going on this ride together, being drafted in the same year and stuff like that. He’s a great person and has a great family, so I couldn’t be happier for them. - Jon Gillies
CALGARY, AB -- While his season was derailed by injuries, there was a small silver lining for Providence College alumnus Jon Gillies.
Assigned to the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League at the start of the 2015-16 season, the Calgary Flames' 2012 third round pick was limited to just seven games in his first professional campaign due to a nagging hip malady.
Yes, the process was obviously frustrating for Gillies but while he underwent treatment and was evaluated by the medical staff, he was able to keep up with his former teammates in Rhode Island.
With a three-hour time difference between the American North Eastern states and Northern California, Gilles caught a lot of Providence College hockey.
"When I got hurt in Stockton, I watched pretty much every game. I became a super fan. They started at 4:00 PM and our game would be at 7:00 PM on the weekends, so it worked out perfectly," he told CalgaryFlames.com. "It was fun to watch those guys. It was weird watching the class that I was part of and not being out there with them, that hit home a little bit.
"Other than that, they did a phenomenal job this year and the past four years. They had some tough luck against Duluth, but it is what it is. That doesn’t take away from what they’ve done and I couldn’t be more proud of them."
Gillies remains in close contact with his old teammates but has a special bond with one in particular.
He and Mark Jankowski have gone through similar journeys to professional hockey and have become close friends through their shared experiences.
Both were drafted by the Flames in 2012.
Both came out of smaller leagues than the traditional CHL and European paths, with Gillies playing his draft-eligible year with Indiana Ice in the United States Hockey League and Jankowski being plucked out of Stanstead College, a prep school in Quebec.
Both started their collegiate careers as true freshmen at Providence in 2012-13.
Both won a national championship -- the first in Friars' program history -- in 2015 when they edged Boston University 4-3 in the Frozen Four Final last April.
And both are now members of the Flames organization with Jankowski inking a entry-level deal with the club on Mar. 30, Gillies singing his deal last spring.
"I’m really happy for him because we were really close at school and we’ve gotten really close through development camps and stuff like that," Gillies stated. "We’ve been going on this ride together, being drafted in the same year and stuff like that. He’s a great person and has a great family, so I couldn’t be happier for them."
While the 2015 NCAA Championship win undoubtedly ranks as the pair's top memory from their time together at Providence, it was ordinary day-to-day happenings that solidified Gillies and Jankowski's bond.
"We went through a lot of ups and downs together. Being true freshmen in such a big class, you see the talent we had in our class with everyone signing. It was fun to be a part of and Mark and I had more of a bond because we were both Flames picks and we were talking to the Flames a lot.
"I remember being in the same situation as him last year and it’s a pretty cool feeling and it doesn’t set in until you get there. I’m just really happy for him."
Jankowski's development over the past four years has seen him go from scoring seven goals and 18 points as a collegiate rookie to posting a team-leading 15 goals and 40 points in his senior season.
Not only has he seen his ice time and responsibilities go up each year, he took on a leadership role with the Friars and was named an alternate captain at the start of the 2015-16 campaign.
Gillies credits the forward's dedication for continued progression on and off the ice.
"I think he grew into his body. He got there and was pretty much as tall as me, but he was 170 pounds. I think he’s about 200, 210 now and that speaks to his work ethic and his commitment. That’s the type of person that he is, he grinds all the way through.
"He’s a great teammate, a great player, and I’m happy to be on the same team once again."