May 15, 2024

Spencer Gill is one of the 2024 NHL Draft’s late risers

One of the most exciting aspects of the draft season is watching rankings evolve. Every year, players who start as assumed late-round picks finish the year as projected top-90 players.

It’s safe to say Spencer Gill is one of those players.

“He proved he’s a reliable, all-situational defenseman and he’s been rising up in some rankings,” FCHockey crossover scout Joey Fortin Boulay said.

The Rimouski Oceanic defender shot up draft rankings thanks to a strong season in the QMJHL and is likely on many teams’ radar after the first round. For any team missing out on a first-round defensive talent, Gill is a solid consolation prize available on day two of the draft.

Who is Spencer Gill?

Gill stands at an imposing 6-foot-4 but a very lanky 182 pounds. Regardless, he offers size that many defenders in this draft don’t possess. If he can add more strength to his frame over the next couple of years, he has the potential to be a big-time presence on the back end. Additionally, with an August birthday, Gill is one of the youngest defenders in the draft class.

2021-22 D-2 Moncton Flyers U18 U18 AAA 30 7 23 30
2022-23 D-1 Rimouski Oceanic QMJHL 41 0 4 4
2023-24 D+0 Rimouski Oceanic QMJHL 65 12 34 46

He’s slotted at No. 54 in FCHockey’s Midterm ranking for the 2024 draft.

Spencer Gill’s On-Ice Production

Gill was born in Riverview, New Brunswick, and has played all his hockey in Eastern Canada. In his D-2 season back in 2021-22, he skated for the Moncton Flyers at the U18 AAA level at age 15. Despite playing two years up, his 30 points were the most of any defender on his team, and the sixth most overall as he registered 30 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 30 games.

Following the season, Gill was ranked as one of the top prospects available for the QMJHL draft, eventually being picked fifth overall by Rimouski. He made the immediate jump to the QMJHL in his D-1 season at age 16, skating in 41 games for the Oceanic.

It was a year of learning for Gill as he struggled to make much of an impact offensively, totaling just four points and no goals. Given his results last year, it’s easy to see why Gill wasn’t on many teams’ radars coming into the 2023-24 season.

With that said, he took a gigantic step forward this year, explaining his massive rise in draft rankings compared to October. Gill exploded for 46 points (12 goals, 34 assists) in 65 games, representing an impressive 42-point increase from his rookie season in the QMJHL. His total points ranked tops on his team among defenders and 10th across the entire QMJHL. Among first-time draft-eligible defenders skating in the QMJHL, his 46 points ranked second behind Marcus Kearey’s 49 points.

Internationally, Gill has represented Canada at the U17 level and most recently at the U18 level at the 2024 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. He posted two assists in seven games at the tournament to help Canada claim gold.

Spencer Gill’s Strengths

One of the first things that stands out about Gill’s game is his overall poise and calmness on the backend. For a player his age, he brings impressive maturity to the ice and rarely appears shaken or under pressure. He can go through the motions on both offense and defense without being thrown off his game.

“Gill stands out for his calm, commanding demeanor and his smart decision-making on and off the puck,” Boulay said.

Whether handling an incoming forecheck or helping transition the puck up ice, Gill almost never lets pressure get to him. He stays calm and makes the right play more often than not. He may not be flashy, but any defenseman with high-end decision-making and hockey IQ will always have a place in the NHL.

His awareness in all three zones makes him a prototypical two-way defender as he utilizes his size, IQ, and calmness to impact the play at both ends of the ice while also helping in transition.

“He displays two-way prowess and makes an impact on both ends,” Boulay said.

If there’s one word to describe his overall game, it’s steady. He constantly makes smart plays every shift and manages the puck well. In today’s NHL, puck possession is more important than ever, and Gill’s ability to maintain possession and move the puck up ice is sure to draw the attention of many teams.

Defensively, Gill took significant steps forward this season, rounding out his overall game in the defensive zone. He makes strong reads, defends one-on-one, and shuts down rush offenses. He’s not an elite skater, but his combination of size and speed is rare, allowing him to get around the ice well for a player his size. This combination makes him a strong rush defender.

“He excels at defending rushes with his long reach and smooth skating, successfully keeping opponents on the outside,” Boulay said.

He may not be the flashiest player offensively or the best shutdown defender, but Gill’s overall combination of size and hockey IQ make him an intriguing two-way defender. He’s the type of player you can trust in both zones to make smart, effective plays.

Spencer Gill’s Areas of Improvement

While Gill’s calm, steady approach to the game can be a positive most nights, it can also be a drawback at times. He can be too calm in certain moments, waiting too long to make a play or letting the play develop too much to the point where certain lanes are no longer available. This can lead to turnovers and penalties as he tries to make up for his delayed decision.

“I would like Gill to be more dynamic and reactive,” Boulay said. “His calmness sometimes turns into passivity and makes him slow to react and late on plays.”

By increasing the speed at which he makes decisions, he will be even more effective in all three zones. For now, he can get away with it, but once he starts playing at the professional level, where the game is even faster, he’ll need to speed up his play.

Another area where Gill can become more impactful is in transition, particularly during offensive drives. He’s a cautious player, which is usually positive, but he could benefit from taking more risks. Whether making a pinch at the blue line or jumping up to join the rush, Gill could stand to be more aggressive.

“I would also like to see him more involved off the rush in offensive drives since he’s a risk-averse defender that won’t get his feet wet,” Boulay said.

He has the offensive ability and skating to do so; he just has to push himself to get up ice more often and not always play it safe.

Spencer Gill’s Outlook

Rarely do you see a defender improve as much as Gill did between his D-1 and D+0 seasons. For that reason, he’s sure to be a target for multiple teams, as one wonders if he has yet another big leap to take in his D+1 year, considering he’s still just 17 years old. There’s even more untapped offensive potential in his game, which makes him an exciting prospect to project going forward.

“Gill had a great second half of the season and has been more involved offensively, but there’s still room for improvement in that aspect,” Boulay said. “I think he’s a solid second-round pick.”

Whether it’s in the second or third round, whichever team selects Gill will be getting a defender with plenty of untapped potential and the makings of a great value pick outside of the first round.

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