CALGARY, AB -- There is no doubt Jon Gillies is going to miss spending Christmas with his family this year but he is definitely not disappointed with his holiday plans.
On Tuesday, the Calgary Flames 2012 third round draft pick was one of three goaltenders named to USA Hockey's preliminary 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship roster and Assistant Executive Director of Hockey Operations Jim Johannson confirmed the team will take all three netminders to Ufa, Russia for the tournament.
"It's a huge honour any time you get to represent your country," Gillies told CalgaryFlames.com. "It's a thrill. I'm really excited for it.
"I think I'll be able to learn a lot of things from the older guys and gain some really good experience."
Gillies attended the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in August in Lake Placid, NY, giving him a taste of what he can expect at the U.S. training camp at the New York Rangers' Madison Square Garden Training Center in Tarrytown, NY, running Dec. 16-18.
"It definitely helps calm the nerves a little bit, being there in the summer," he stated. "I feel like it's going to be a bit of a different camp in New York this month, more practice-based and building chemistry with the rest of the team."
Gillies had a rough start to camp in Lake Placid, putting in time in three games and amassing a 5.39 GAA and a .814 save percentage. However, American head coach Phil Housley was won over by Gillies unwavering work ethic, continued progression throughout camp and the strong start he has had at Providence College this year.
"Based on just seeing him camp, I thought he stepped up his game," Housley said in a conference call with the media on Tuesday morning. "It started out slow but really came to forefront towards the end of camp. Just like a lot of our players, it seems like the bigger guys, it took them a little bit longer to get moving.
"Speaking with Nate Leaman, he's really, really excited the way he's played up to this point. He's keeping them in every game. Probably the biggest reason, according to coach Leaman, that they're able to be in games is Jon Gillies. That's great to see and great to hear."
The 18 year-old will be joined at camp next week by his fellow Flames prospects Johnny Gaudreau and Patrick Sieloff. Gillies spent time with the pair during Calgary's development camp in July and the U.S. evaluation camp, getting a first-hand view of what each player brings to the fold for Team USA.
"What doesn't Johnny bring?" he chuckled. "He's fast, skilled and he has incredible vision. He's really a pleasure to watch.
"As for Pat, no one can match his physicality. He just brings that physical presence and that sense of security back there. And above all, both of them are great guys and it will be fun to be there with them."
Before training camp begins next week, Gillies will square off with Gaudreau and the high-powered Boston College Eagles. The game on Friday is excellent measuring stick for the young Friars team and Gillies is looking forward to the match-up.
"No one is taking away that they're a great team and that they've had a ton of success but it is just another hockey game for us and anything can happen. As a team, we're going to show up and play the best we can and see what happens."
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