Player: Max Gildon
Height: 6’3” Weight: 187 lbs.
Team: USA NTDP U18
Final NHL Central Scouting rank: 54th among North American skaters
What I Like
Raw physical tools
GIldon has a rare combination of size and agility. He has always been a bigger kid so he doesn’t have some of that awkwardness with his coordination that other players his size might have. His skating and footwork isn’t quite elite, but it’s above average, especially for a player his size. He looks like an NHL defenseman.
With his size and strength, Gildon has the ability to really shoot the puck. When he gets the puck at the point, he doesn’t need much time and space to get a heavy shot off and he can pick the upper corners of the net from anywhere.
He also has a smooth catch and release of the puck when taking passes while moving that allows him to get the puck off his stick and on net before the goalie can react.
What I Don’t Like
Poise under pressure
Gildon was okay in his defensive end against USHL and international competition, but he really struggled to move the puck out of his own end when facing faster competition at the college level. That would perhaps be true for most defensemen in this Draft, and Gildon could certainly adjust with age, but it is an area he’ll need to improve before he’s ready for pro hockey.
This is a big one. As mentioned above, Gildon has above average physical traits, yet still produces relatively average results on the ice. There was the expectation that a player with Gildon’s size and skills could take over and become a dominant defenseman at the NTDP like a Seth Jones/Jacob Trouba/Zach Werenski/Noah Hanifin. That never really happened. He just doesn’t have the ability with the puck on his stick to control play and take over a game the way those other guys did. Once you get to the NHL level, everybody is big and strong and what separates players is their ability to think the game. So far, Gildon hasn’t shown much in that regard.
Plateau in development
If this Draft had been held three years ago, there’s a good chance Gildon wouldn’t have lasted past the top three picks. Now we’re talking about a kid that might not be picked in the first three rounds of the Draft. He’s been passed by a lot of other players, which significantly reduces the odds of him someday re-passing all those other players to become one of the rare later round picks that makes it in the NHL.
NHL Central Scouting has Gildon in the range of a fourth, maybe fifth, round pick. I totally understand why, but at the same time, I think he might end up going higher on draft day for a couple reasons. First, Central Scouting doesn’t take into account the World U18 championships, and I think Gildon helped himself with a pretty decent tournament.
Second, as much as we scrutinize what a player does in their draft year, the NHL Draft is all about gambling on future potential, and a guy with Gildon’s size and physical attributes has a lot of it, even if he hasn’t taken full advantage of it at this point. Gildon is a kid that has been on the radar for a long time—he was a standout U16 player as a 14-year-old—so I think it’s easy to forget he just turned 18 three weeks ago, and still has a lot of time to mature as a player.
The flip side of that, of course, is that he’s had high-level training and coaching the past two years, and if the light hasn’t gone on yet, there’s a strong likelihood that it never does. And NHL-level hockey sense isn’t really something that can be taught. So there’s a lot risk. But I still see Gildon being selected in the third round, and maybe even potentially as high as the second if a team is really willing to gamble.
Even though physically the sky is the limit, I don’t think Gildon will ever develop the offensive ability to be a top pairing defenseman at the pro level. More likely, he’s a second or third pairing guy that gives a solid 15 minutes a game of quiet, defensive hockey. He’s headed to the University of New Hampshire next season, where he will have the opportunity to play a lot of minutes right away in multiple situations. If Gildon starts to improve his hockey sense a bit and plays well at New Hampshire, he’s certainly ready physically for the pros, and could be ready to compete for an NHL roster spot after a few years at New Hampshire and some time in the minor leagues.