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Passing Prospect: Panthers' Gildon has skillset to be breakthrough blueliner

Max Gildon comes from QB country in Texas, and his vision on the ice makes him a power-play quarterback.
University of New Hampshire athletics

University of New Hampshire athletics

The list of exceptional quarterbacks from Texas may one day include Max Gildon – even if his play-calling happens on the ice. Florida’s third-round pick in 2017 has drawn attention for his uncanny ability to run the power play and generate offense from the blueline. “He skates a hell of a lot better than I did,” said Bryan McCabe, Florida’s director of player personnel. “He really works the blueline well. He sees the whole ice, and he’s got a knack for getting pucks through.”


Just like a quarterback throwing deep. “I guess it’s kind of the same thing, being able to read what the opposing team is doing,” said Gildon, 19.

Though life in Plano, Texas, is football-focused, Gildon was on skates by age three. His grandfather, Larry Smith, would take Max and younger brother Michael skating “at least” four days a week. “When we were first starting to learn hockey, my grandpa just kind of stuck us out there, put one puck on the ice and said, ‘Get after it,’ ” Gildon said.

At 14, Gildon made the under-16 squad of Dallas Stars Elite, the same club that produced NHLers Seth Jones and Blake Coleman. “He was playing up because he couldn’t just do it himself,” said Eric Silverman, the program’s director of hockey operations. “He had to learn how to play the game the right way, move the puck, defend bigger guys.”

As a freshman at the University of New Hampshire, the 6-foot-3, 191-pounder had 23 points in 36 games. Five of his eight goals came on the power play. With Florida’s crowded blueline, there’s no rush for Gildon. The Panthers want him to improve in the defensive end. “We have the approach with our college guys, ‘You tell us when you’re ready,’ ” McCabe said. “His play will dictate that.”

That patience is appreciated by Gildon. “My dream is to play in the NHL,” he said. “But I know it takes time to get there, and I don’t want to rush anything. Being patient and looking for the right time to make that jump will be essential for me.”


This story appears in the Prospects Unlimited 2018 issue of The Hockey News magazine.


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