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2014 World Junior Championship: Jon Gillies Poised to Lead United States

Can Jon Gillies lead the United States to back-to-back Gold Medals at the World Junior Championship?

Jon Gillies
Jon Gillies
Bruce Bennett

Jon Gillies has played well beyond his years as the starting goaltender for Nate Leaman's Providence College Friars, but now he has a chance on the biggest stage yet to prove he is capable of being a building block for the future of the Calgary Flames organization.

Gillies, the 75th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, will be the starting goaltender for the United States team at the World Junior Championship that begins Dec. 26 in Malmo, Sweden.

The statistics do not lie. The South Portland, Maine native is an exceptional goaltender. Gillies sports a 1.88 goals against average and a .941 save percentage in 15 games played for the Friars this season. He has three shutouts on the season and eight for his career.

He is a major reason that Providence, under the direction of third year head coach Nate Leaman, is the most up and coming program in college hockey.

However, to understand what Gillies brings to the table, one has to dig further than just his stat line. Gillies has a far better team in front of him this season, but last year he had some ups and downs as a freshman in the toughest league in NCAA hockey.

What impressed his coach the most was his ability to bounce back from a tough outing. On more than one occasion last season, Leaman boasted of his young goaltender's ability to come back with a strong performance after a less than typical performance.

Gillies is also able to thrive under pressure. The former Indiana Ice backstop faced a daunting task to start the season with weekend visits from WCHA favorite Minnesota State and NCHC power Miami over a three week span to begin the season. He made some crucial saves and helped the Friars go 3-0-1 over those four games.

Gillies has battled some injuries during the first semester and even missed some significant practice time in October. Then, in November he was pulled after two periods in a Hockey East game against New Hampshire after suffering a lower body injury.

He seemed to bounce back as he posted a .939 save percentage over the next three games, including a 45 save performance at ECAC powerhouse Quinnipiac the night before Thanksgiving.

Gillies is a big goaltender who plays his angles tremendously well and takes up much of the net, but fans getting their first glimpse of him in the upcoming World Junior Championship will be amazed at his lateral movement. He can go post-to-post as well as any big goaltender.

The United States lost a hefty portion of the team that won the Gold Medal at the 2013 tournament, and if the red, white and blue is to repeat, Gillies will have to be the goaltender many college hockey observers believe he can be.

Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.