McGillis' key to success was that he was never afraid of hard work. He credits growing up in a small town with developing that trait.
"Hard work matters the most. The people of Hawkesbury (Ontario) are as honest as they come and it's something you learn at an early age," he said.
"I remember the outdoor rink just down the road from the family home. My dad and a neighbor were the ones who used to water it and make sure it was ready for the kids. It had boards and lights and everyone couldn't wait to use it. It's where I pursued my dream of making it to the NHL."
"Whenever the rink was watered and ready to go, I wanted to be the first one down there to skate on it. It was a great feeling to be out there and just enjoy being with friends and playing the game you love. I used to think I was Bobby Orr when I played. I guess I came up a little shy of that!"
What he lacked in talent, McGillis made up for in effort. McGillis was a later bloomer. Because he wanted to got the college route, he never left home at an early age to play junior hockey like so many kids have to do. He was able to stay in Hawkesbury, working as a groundskeeper at the local golf course and on the clean-up shift at a shingle factory.
"I left home when I was 20, so it wasn't to bad in terms of it being a shock. I was fortunate enough to be able to play my Tier 2 hockey at home, so I can't really complain. I think my mom had probably had enough of me anyway."
"You never really forget your roots and it is an adjustment once you move away, but it's not as hard as it once was. Initially, it's a big change, but you learn to adapt pretty quickly."
A graduate of Northeastern University, McGillis was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the 10th round (238th overall) in the 1992 Entry Draft. McGillis never played for the Wings as his playing rights were traded to Edmonton during his senior year at school in 1996 in exchange for Kirk Maltby.
McGillis stepped into the NHL immediately. Playing under the guidance of veteran defense partner Kevin Lowe, McGillis impressed early as a solid replacement for the departed Luke Richardson. He played with the composure and savvy of a veteran.
He was imposing at 6'2" and over 220 pounds, and he wasn't afraid to use that size. Though his penalty minute totals were very low, he was not afraid to step into any opponent who dare to come his way.
In his second season in Edmonton he began to show some of the offensive potential he displayed regularly in college. He had a heavy shot, made a good first pass and smart pinches.
The Philadelphia Flyers saw the potential in McGillis and traded slick puck moving defenseman Janne Niinimaa for the defender and a second round draft pick.
McGillis emerged into a solid top four d-man in Philly, manning a point and putting up productive seasons, most notably in 1998-99 and 2000-01. He added more physicality in his own zone compared Niinimaa, though was not as fluid in his five on five even strength play.
McGillis played in Philly until 2003, leaving to make appearances in San Jose, Boston and New Jersey.
Salary cap issues squeezed McGillis out of the NHL, though he was able to prolong his career with three seasons in Germany.