February 12, 2014

First Look at Tomahawks' Tender Jake Gwillim

Twitter @Gwilly35 
In junior hockey, it's never too early to take a look at next season. At this level of hockey, players age out every season, so it's key to be able to scout up and coming talent to take over the roster spots that free up.

Just a week ago the Tomahawks' settled on their two goalies for the rest of the 13-14 season, Okicki and Young. Okicki is playing in his last junior year, and his spot in the Johnstown lineup will have to be filled by someone new next season.

Tendering a player for an NAHL team doesn't guarantee that the player will make that team's roster at the end of training camp, but it does give the player a foot in the door.

One player that the Tomahawks' have recently tendered is goaltender Jake Gwillim. Gwillim stands at 6ft and is 200lb. He's a 1997 birth year player and is currently playing for the Lansing Capitals of the NAPHL.

Like the NAHL, the NAPHL holds a showcase for all of their teams, and it was during this showcase he caught the attention of Johnstown's staff. "My assistant coach introduced me to Rick Boyd and Mike Letizia right after (the game). Mr. Boyd explained how they liked the way I played and wanted me to be apart of the organization", said Gwillim.

The game was a 3-1 win over the Anaheim Jr Ducks U18 team, the top team in the NAPHL. Gwillim faced 33 total shots turning away all but one. "I had a solid game", said Gwillim.

Not only did he have a solid game but he's put together a solid season thus far this year. Gwillim appeared in 13 games for the Capitals so far, posting a record of 12-1-0, a GAA of 1.85, and a save percentage of .924.

"I've been really happy with the season I've had this far. I worked hard this offseason to become a better overall player, and I think the numbers show that", said Gwillim.

His team has an overall record of 19-5-0 which is good for fourth in the entire league and Jake knows his team's success isn't all because of himself. "I have to give credit to Strida Hockey, the training program I attended. Also have to give some credit to my team, as we've had some great team chemistry and really pulled together this season", said Gwillim.

After talking with Johnstown's GM Rick Boyd, Gwillim decided to do some research on the team before becoming an official tender. It only took a few minutes to see the type of organization Johnstown is. 

"After doing a little research, I knew Johnstown is where I wanted to start my junior career", said Gwillim. What did it for Jake? As he put it, the city and the fans. "The town looks beautiful, and it appears to be a tightknit community which is something that really appealed to me. The fans are also amazing. I watched a home game on Fasthockey, and the War Memorial was packed and electric. It was surreal", said Gwillim.

Currently, Johnstown sits third in NAHL attendance averaging 2,386 fans a game.

Gwillim is proving to be a solid goaltender in the NAPHL and looks at current NHL goalies to shape his game. "I try to take different techniques from pro goalies and use a combination that works best for me, but if I had to compare myself to an NHL goalie I'd say Reto Berra of the Calgary Flames. He's a big guy and reads the play well", said Gwillim.

Gwillim hasn't played at the Tier 2 level yet, but will get all the advice he needs from someone that's currently finding success in the league, his step-brother Dillion Kelley. Kelley currently plays for Austin and is known to Johnstown fans as recently playing for the Michigan Warriors. "He just said to play my game, don't be nervous and have fun. It will be faster than midgets, but I think I'll handle the adjustment well if I follow his advice", said Gwillim.

Looking towards this offseason, Jake has a simple goal in mind. "Have a good camp, and ultimately make the roster", said Gwillim. 

"I'd just like to say how grateful I am to have this opportunity to not only be apart of the organization, but to also be apart of the community", Gwillim added as our conversation was coming to an end.

I think I speak for the rest of the fans in Johnstown when I say we're looking forward to seeing him in a Tomahawks jersey come the 2014-2015 season.

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