You couldn’t ask for much more in a defenceman than what Max Gildon brings to the table. The only problem was he never brought it all at once, and opposition forwards seemed to intercept half of it.
Much of that changed this season. Gildon took the best parts of his game to another level, filled out physically and has made significant progress on ironing out the issues that made scouts hesitant about his ability to carve out a professional career.
Gildon, who’s committed to the University of New Hampshire is making significant progress, but many still feel he’s a long way to go. That’s a testament to his ceiling as much as how far he’s left to go before he reaches it. And with that, he checks in as the 60th ranked prospect in the Nations Network Prospect Profile countdown.
- Age: 18-years-old, 1999-05-17
- Birthplace: Plano, Texas, USA
- Position: D
- Handedness: L
- Draft Year Team: USNTDP
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Gildon was a highly touted prospect the past few years. He didn’t quite reach the level some anticipated when he entered the NTDP, but I see a lot to like in his game, even if some holes remain. Gildon also finished his draft year strong, being one of the top defensemen at the IIHF under-18 championship. Gildon has real offensive upside, as he’s a very smooth skater, particularly for a 6-foot-3 player. He moves the puck fine and has a big shot from the point. His hockey IQ can be up and down. Some days, he’s showing good vision and creating well. Other days he’s making brain-cramp turnovers and misreading the play. There are consistency issues in his game, but at the end of the day, he can make a difference. He’ll skate for the University of New Hampshire this fall.
A player with Gildon’s raw physical tools should be a slam-dunk for the first round of the draft. But I’m not sure that he has the hockey sense to match it. His huge shot from the point is a big asset that I’d like to see used more often. He’ll probably somewhere in the second round of the draft.
A two-way defender in the Ryan McDonagh mold…this big wing-spanned blueliner is just scratching the surface of his ability…the big Texan is a minute-muncher who can contribute at both ends of the ice…a steadying presence in his own zone…strong and physical, not afraid to flex his muscle and willing to play it nasty if required…pins his man and does not let him back into the play…generates decent speed and keeps his gaps tight because of his reach and skating…handles the puck well, although not overly flashy or very creative offensively…can play in all situations…plays a strong transition game, moving the puck quickly and accurately up to his forwards…does not back down from a battle…his point shot is improving with added strength…has loads of room to grow, but also the potential to be a difference-maker at the NHL level.
I’ve just scratched the surface so far on what Gildon brings to the table, so let’s get into the nitty gritty detail of it all. Gildon has NHL size at 6’3″ and 187 lbs., so he’s got a good foundation. He’s a strong skater for someone with his frame, though there’s room for improvement. Exiting the defensive zone, Gildon hits his forwards in stride with clean passes, though he’s not shy about using that speed I alluded to as a means of transitioning play. Gildon brings a solid physical presence in the defensive zone without overextending himself to make the big hit. His best, and perhaps most underused, asset to date is likely his shot. When he brings the heat, he really brings it.
The biggest question mark with Gildon has been his decision making. Scouts share concerns about his reads, particularly when the pucks on his stick. I think he’s made significant progress towards fixing some of those ills this season, which played a role in my ranking him as high as I did.
I don’t know if I’m as convinced of Gildon as a “minute-munching defenceman” as Future Considerations. When we look at where he ranks on the USNTDP’s blue line in USHL action this season on www.Prospect-Stats.com, he played the eighth-most minutes on average of that defence corps at five-on-five. He plays in both phases of special teams, so maybe there’s something I’m missing, but I don’t get the sense he’s out there as often as some might suggest.
Gildon has a lot of room to grow, and I think that’s one of the primary draws with him as a prospect. Most see a player who’s just scratching the surface of his potential, and I tend to agree with that assessment. He can add muscle to his frame, work on his edges and decision making, and then one can dare to dream as to what follows.
When we view Gildon’s season through the pGPS lens, he looks like a can’t-miss prospect. Just north of 45% of the players in Gildon’s cohort develop into full-time NHL defencemen, and they carry an expected points mark of 35.5 per 82 games played. Apparently, pGPS thinks so highly of him, that they project him as a top-four forward! That’s obviously a blip in the coding, so read that as a top four defenceman, which I’d tend to think Gildon would be more happy with as a career assignment anyways.
I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if a team saw Gildon’s physical tools and took a crack at him in the first round. There’s certainly a principle for a player of his ilk developing into a premier defenceman. I’d tend to think Gildon is best suited to an early second round pick, though.