The New York Islanders have announced their training camp roster and it features a few non-roster invites, but none more interesting than goaltender Jon Gillies. Gillies comes over from the St. Louis Blues as an unsigned unrestricted free agent and could actually have a shot at a contract. The other two invites are AHL Bridgeport players, veteran defensemen Seth Helgeson and Mike Cornell.
Whether it be his Providence College connection with GM Lou Lamoriello or simply his status as one of the few experienced goaltenders left available on the open market, Gillies has found his way to the Islanders this preseason and it could be a PTO worth watching. While New York has a stout NHL tandem in Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin, their depth is a concern. 35-year-old Cory Schneider was re-signed, but his 2020-21 season with the Isles resulted in zero NHL appearances and just two abysmal AHL starts. Ken Appleby was signed in April strictly for Expansion Draft purposes and he too was limited last season with just seven AHL appearances. Appleby, 26, played exclusively in the ECHL in 2019-20 as well. Jakub Skarek, 21, struggled with Bridgeport last season, while Tristan Lennox, 18, is not ready for the pros. With a strong camp performance, it is easy to see how Gillies might be able to fill a role for the Islanders this season.
A third-round pick of the Calgary Flames in 2012, Gillies was a top college goalie and NCAA National Champion with the Providence Friars before turning pro early in 2015. Gillies performed well at the pro level immediately and his early returns in the AHL and in a small sample of NHL appearances put him position to battle to be the Flames’ goaltender of the future. However, this was a competition that he would lose to David Rittich. Relegated to the AHL for the entire 2018-19 season, Gillies performed poorly and his NHL trajectory was knocked off course. With that said, he has improved in each of the past two seasons and spent much of last year on the St. Louis taxi squad as the next man up in net. At 27, Gillies still has plenty of tread left on the tires. The Islanders have experience in Schneider and upside in Skarek, but if they truly need a netminder to step in to an NHL role this season, Gillies could be their best bet – especially if he can make the most of his PTO with a strong camp performance.