He started the year in the AHL, playing for the Hartford Wolf Pack. And what a year he was having!
In 44 games with Hartford, the 24-year-old Gilmour registered six goals and 20 assists (26 points). Those totals were good enough to lead his team and rank him seventh overall in the AHL for assists and points by a defenseman.
His outstanding season earned him a trip to the AHL’s All-Star Classic, where his primary asset — speed — was on full display.
He used his lightning legs to win the Fastest Skater competition; recording a time of 13.663 seconds. Not only did he win, but his impressive time earned him the distinction of being the fourth-fastest skater in the event’s history.
So, how did the Rangers get their hands on this fleet-of-foot defenseman?
The answer? Good fortune.
After his freshman year at Providence College (2012-13), Gilmour was drafted in the seventh-round of the NHL’s 2013 Entry Draft — by the Calgary Flames.
John Gilmour talks about his growth through the first 16 games with the Rangers and his huge moments of scoring his first career goal and an OT game-winner.
But as Gilmour told me, “I chose not to sign with Calgary. Then, a couple years later, I became a free agent. There were a number of teams looking at me; one being the Rangers. And I’m glad I signed with them.”
Measuring in at 6-foot, 195 lbs, Gilmour may not exactly stand out from the crowd, but he has his speed and his father to thank for where he is today.
As Gilmour tells it, “I grew up in Montreal, Quebec. But I was late getting into hockey. I didn’t start skating until age six.”
By Montreal standards, that’s not just late, that’s like late-Jurassic Era late. Most kids in Montreal — or most of Canada for that matter — are skating by the time they’re 3-years-old.
“I hated it at first,” said Gilmour. “I didn’t want to continue, but my dad was persistent. And looking back, I’m glad he was.”
It’s a good thing his dad was persistent, otherwise, he wouldn’t be the swift-skating Rangers’ defenseman he’s become.
With his father and other family members in the crowd, Montreal native John Gilmour levels Habs forward Jonathan Drouin.
Maybe he would have played another sport.
“Growing up, I played soccer, swimming, baseball and hockey. Luckily, hockey prevailed,” reminisced Gilmour.
Of course, he could’ve had a career in the blossoming eSports industry.
As Gilmour recalls, “When NHL ‘09-’10 came out, I was playing every day. Eventually, I worked my way up to being ranked third in the world. But then school and hockey took over my time.”
Thankfully, Gilmour preferred playing in real-life compared to virtual reality.
And there’s nothing more real than playing in the NHL.
On February 9, 2018, John made his NHL debut, playing in front of a sold out Madison Square Garden crowd as the Blueshirts hosted the Flames.
Talk about irony! He made his NHL debut against the very team that drafted him five years earlier.
“I had never felt that way before,” said Gilmour. “Getting called up to the NHL was something special. But once the game started, I just tried to focus on doing what I do best; breaking out with speed.”
However, not everything was rosy when Gilmour joined the big-league team.
The team was getting ready to trade some players ahead of the NHL’s trade deadline; not exactly the situation you want to find yourself in as a rookie making your NHL debut.
And while many players often fret about trade rumors, Gilmour carried on cool as can be.
“I just tried to take it day-by-day,” remembers John. “My debut was a phenomenal moment for me and my family. After the first few shifts, I tried to settle down and just focus on the game at hand.”
That he did; finishing the game with a plus-1 rating in 17:11 of ice time.
And if that was a phenomenal night for Gilmour, he hadn’t seen anything yet.
On February 28, just short of three weeks after his NHL debut, the Rangers visited the Vancouver Canucks.
An end of February out-of-conference game usually wouldn’t stand out to most people. Then again, John Gilmour isn’t most people.
On that night, Gilmour etched his name in the Rangers’ record book; becoming the first rookie defenseman in franchise history to score a game-winning overtime goal.
“I was pretty pumped to be out there for overtime,” said John. “(Ryan) Spooner is a creative guy. He just got the puck on my stick and I had seen a small window of opportunity. I put the shot on net and it went in.”
John Gilmour speaks with John Giannone after scoring his first NHL goal during the Rangers-Wild game.
From wanting to quit hockey as a child to being a history-making rookie for an Original Six franchise.
Not a bad start to his career.