Monday, March 13, 2017

Blue Chip Defenseman Max Gildon Commits to UNH

2017 UNH Commit
Max Gildon
"Big smooth skating defenseman...his length and athleticism are very impressive." Neutral Zone
"A two-way defender in the Ryan McDonagh mold...this big wing-spanned blueliner is just scratching the surface of his ability." Future Considerations
"At 6'3” and 203 lbs. (Gildon) has an appealing combination of size and smooth-skating ability." International Scouting Services (ISS)
Competing for the NCAA Hockey National Championship requires outstanding defense. It's no accident that the last UNH team to qualify for the NCAA National Tournament boasted one of the best defenses in the nation. The 2012-13 Wildcats had the 9th best defense in Division 1 and only allowed an average of 2.31 goals per game. In early December, 2012 they were ranked #1 in the country and went on to defeat Denver 5-2 in the opening round of the NCAA's before losing to UMass Lowell 2-0 in the "Elite Eight" round.

Max Gildon - U.S. NTDP U18 (Photo: Rena Laverty)
Since then, the UNH team defense has been heading in the wrong direction and the Wildcats have not qualified for the NCAA tournament. Over the last three seasons, including the recently completed regular season, the team's goals against average has increased to 2.73 (42nd in nation), 3.27 (48th), and 3.47 (52nd) respectively. The UNH coaching staff has taken a big step toward reversing this trend by securing the commitment of one of the top 1999-born defensemen in North America.

Max Gildon (DOB: 5/17/1999), a 6'3", 188 lbs., left-shot defenseman from Plano, Texas, has announced he will be enrolling at UNH next Fall. Gildon (Pronounced: Gil-DON) is in his second season with the U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP) based in Plymouth, Michigan. The NHL Central Scouting Service currently projects him as a 2nd or 3rd round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft coming up this June in Chicago. They rank him #76 among all North American skaters (#30 defenseman) eligible for the draft.

The U.S. NTDP selects the elite American-born, 16-year-old players and strives to develop the most successful national team. Beginning with the U17 players, Team USA represents the nation at international competitions. In recent years, most NTDP graduates were drafted into the NHL and many went on to represent the United States in the Olympics.

Player Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
Max Gildon  (D) USA NTDP U18 NCAA 16 0 6 6 6
USHL 22 5 8 13 24
NAHL 1 1 0 1 0
Int'l. 8 1 3 4 14
USA NTDP U17 USHL 39 0 8 8 34
NAHL 2 0 1 1 0
Int'l. 15 1 8 9 14

In March 2015, as Max Gildon was finishing up his final season with the Dallas Stars Elite U16, the International Scouting Services (ISS) identified him as one of the top 5 prospects for the 2017 NHL Draft. Needless to say, the top junior hockey organizations in North America were hot on his trail. The U.S. NTDP invited Gildon to the 2015 Evaluation Camp. The Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League (a major junior league in western Canada) had drafted him in the 3rd Round of the 2014 Bantam Draft and their general manager was still recruiting him.

Gildon made the NTDP U17 team and had a solid 2015-16 season. One highlight was his performance at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in early November 2015 in British Columbia. Gildon scored a goal and 2 assists in 5 games and Future Considerations, a primary source for information on NHL draft eligible prospects, provided this assessment:
"The big rangy blue liner from the lone star state has a massive coverage range defensively, plays with a physical edge and makes a very strong breakout pass. Gildon can play in any situation, whether PP, PK or 5-on-5 and logs big minutes all while staying consistent in his efforts and decision making. With his size and the type of two-way game he plays his draft (NHL) projection is that of a Top-15 pick for 2017."
This season, Gildon's development has accelerated with the NTDP U18 team. In early November, Team USA won the Five Nations Tournament and Gildon, as the starting left defenseman, scored an assist and generated 21 shots on goal over 4 games. The scouting report from Neutral Zone** provided this assessment of Gildon's performance:

"The big smooth skating defenseman played very well here. His length and athleticism is very impressive. Made good reads with the puck and defended well with his skating ability and reach. Showed he can shoot the puck on the power play with velocity and was a threat to score."
Rating - 4 3/4 out 5 Stars.

** Reprinted by permission of Brendan Collins, Director of Scouting at Neutral Zone.

In late November, Gildon notched his first 2-goal game as a member of the NTDP. The U18 club plays 27 games this season against United States Hockey League teams. In a matchup against the Muskegon Lumberjacks, Gildon scored a power play goal in the first period and an even strength goal one minute later (see Video Highlights below).

On January 1st, Future Considerations released it's 2017 Winter Rankings and Max Gildon was listed at #57. Here's their scouting report:
"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."
Over the last month, Max Gildon's progress in the offensive zone has been on full display. In the first game of the 2017 U18 5 Nations Championship in Sundsvall, Sweden, Gildon fired 7 shots on goal, tallied another power play goal, and added an assist (see video highlights). Team USA defeated Finland, the Czech Republic, Russia, and Sweden and won the championship. Two weeks ago, Gildon sniped a goal in the North American Hockey League Top Prospects Tournament. Here are video highlights of some of the goals Gildon has scored so far this season:


I had an opportunity to interview Max Gildon, via email, about his hockey career and commitment to UNH:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Congratulations on your commitment to play for the University of New Hampshire. What are the main reasons you chose UNH?

Max Gildon: The coaches, the campus and the people around the program just sold me on UNH.

Mike Lowry: Have you and the UNH coaches agreed on a target date for to you enroll as a freshman at UNH and join the team?

Max Gildon: I plan on going in as a true freshman.

Lowry: A year ago, you verbally committed to the University of Wisconsin. What factors entered into your decision to reopen your college search?

Gildon: The feeling I got after the coaching change was suspicious and I wanted somewhere that has a great history of hockey like UNH does. I also wanted to go to a smaller college.

Lowry: When you renewed the recruiting process, what other college programs did you consider? Which schools did you visit and which ones made an offer to you?

Gildon: There were a few other schools but once I came to see the campus at UNH, I knew it was the place for me.

Lowry: At this stage in your hockey development, what are the strengths of your game? What areas are you trying to improve?

Gildon: I think my strengths are my intelligence and skating ability. I believe I still have room to grow in all areas however I would like to see improvement on the defensive play in the dirty areas of the ice.

Lowry: Did you have an opportunity to watch the current UNH team play? If so, how do you think you can help the team when you join it?

Gildon: I did and I believe the team is very good and I am hoping I can just do my best to help the team to get that next level of greatness.

Lowry: I've read that your grandfather Larry Smith was instrumental in your start in hockey when you were a youngster in Texas. Would you tell us the story?

Gildon: Yes, both of my parents work and my grandfather lives close to us so he would pick me and my brother (Michael Gildon, Dallas Stars Elite U16) up from day care and take us skating and we would always have a fun time. That's when I fell in love with the game.

Lowry: You played youth hockey for the Dallas Stars Elite Hockey Club near your hometown of Plano, Texas. During the 2011-12 season, you and fellow UNH commit Marek Wazny (8 months younger) were top players on the Dallas Stars Elite 12U team that advanced to the USA Hockey Tier 1 National Tournament. What do you remember about that season and playing with Marek?

Gildon: He was a very smart player and great teammate. I look forward to playing with him again.

Lowry: When you were a 14-year-old defenseman playing for the 2013-14 Stars Elite 16U team, scouts began to compare you to fellow Texan Seth Jones, who was drafted 4th overall by the Nashville Predators in the 2013 NHL Draft. Although Jones is nearly 5 years older and your careers have not overlapped, you both played youth hockey for the Dallas Stars Elite followed by two seasons with the US National Team Development Program. Jones went on to become an NHL All-Star with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Following your 2014-15 season, the ISS scouting organization named you as a top 5 prospect for the 2017 NHL Draft. Do you feel it's a mixed-blessing to be the recipient of such high praise and the high expectations that come with it?

Gildon: I feel it has its up side however I try not to concern myself with that kind of stuff. I like to just go out and play hard.

Lowry: You are approaching the end of your two seasons with the US NTDP. Would you describe a couple of the high points of your Team USA experience?

Gildon: This past year we have been winning a lot. All the hard work we put in is showing off like when we won the two international tournaments earlier this year. I have had a lot of fun these past two years.

Lowry: In November, the NHL Central Scouting Service identified you as a potential 2nd or 3rd round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, coming up on June 23-24 in Chicago. In their midterm rankings, you were ranked #76 among North American skaters. As a fan, do you have a favorite NHL team? As a player, do you have a preference for the type of NHL team you would like to play for?

Gildon: Being from Dallas, I root for the the Stars but I do not have a preference as to who I would like to play for.

Lowry: What are your academic strengths and interests? Have you thought about what you might major in when you enroll at UNH?

Gildon: I have not really thought about it much. I am just focusing on finishing this year strong and then I will look at my options more in depth after the season.


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