The Chicago Blackhawks announced on Friday that they came to terms with prospect Dennis Gilbert on a three-year entry-level contract that will run through the 2020-21 season. No cap hit has been reported by the Blackhawks as of this afternoon.
Gilbert, 21, was unable to join the Blackhawks for the final stretch on the 2017-18 NHL campaign like fellow prospects Dylan Sikura and Blake Hillman due to an extended run in the NCAA Frozen Four by Gilbert and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Gilbert and the Irish fell to Minnesota-Duluth 2-1 in the NCAA National Championship game last weekend.
The Blackhawks selected Gilbert with the 91st overall selection (third round) in the 2015 NHL Draft. Gilbert spent the last three seasons since his initial selection playing hockey for Notre Dame, one of the best collegiate hockey programs in the country. The deep NCAA Tournament run was actually a good thing for the Blackhawks from a control standpoint, because Gilbert’s deal will not start until the upcoming season, and run through the conclusion of the 2020-21 campaign.
The Blackhawks defense was their Achilles heel this past season — exposed by the loss of Corey Crawford, the ‘Hawks defensive unit displayed concerning regression from aging defenseman Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, with Seabrook looking like a shell of his former self on most nights.
Gilbert brings his six-foot-two, 198-pound frame and notable physicality to the Blackhawks next season, and will join young defenseman Blake Hillman, Gustav Forsling, Carl Dahlstrom and Luc Snuggerud in the mix for the future of the ‘Hawks defensive unit next season.
Gilbert tallied four goals and six assists for the Fighting Irish this past season, but two of his four goals came short-handed, tops for defenseman across the NCAA landscape. Gilbert’s best offensive season came during his sophomore campaign (last year) — logging 22 assists in 40 games.
The Buffalo, N.Y. native was named the Big East Hockey East’s Best Defensive Defenseman and a Hockey East Third Team All-Star during his aforementioned sophomore campaign.
While not considered much of an offensive threat at this point — even by defenseman standards — the Blackhawks need a young physical defenseman in the fold, and Gilbert should address that void. Gilbert blocked 12 shots for the Irish during their run to the Frozen Four this season.
The 21-year old defenseman will immediately join the Rockford IceHogs on their impending AHL playoff run. The IceHogs have a pair of regular season games remaining (both) against the Chicago Wolves.