Coming in at No. 18 on our Top 25 Under 25 List for 2016 is American-born defenseman Dennis Gilbert. Gilbert is a player that is already familiar with playing hockey in the Chicago area, as he was a member of the USHL’s Chicago Steel prior to being drafted in 2015, and is currently enrolled at the University of Notre Dame, where he just finished his freshman season.
Birth date: Oct. 30, 1996
Acquired via: Third round (91st overall) in 2015 NHL Entry Draft
Most recent stop: University of Notre Dame (NCAA)
Size: 6'2, 198 pounds
Gilbert’s scouting report indicates that he is a strong two-way defenseman who is an especially good skater for a player of his larger frame. He is solid in his own zone, and he still has room to grow on offense, he’s shown strength in that department as well. During the 2014-15 season, he led all Chicago Steel defenseman with 27 points in 59 appearances, and he posted 10 points in 37 games in his freshman year at Notre Dame.
In March, Gilbert was ranked No. 71 on SB Nation College Hockey’s Top 100 NHL Prospects in the NCAA list. From their list:
A year after being drafted by the Blackhawks, Gilbert has immediately stepped into Notre Dame's line-up and been a strong, consistent player. Gilbert skates extremey well for a defenseman listed at a legit 6'2" 200lbs, and plays a controlled, poised game. He still has room to develop a little more on the offensive end, but that should come as he further adjusts to the college level and begins to play a bigger role for Notre Dame as an upperclassman.
Gilbert also takes pride in willingness to get into the dirty areas and block shots. Leah Pascarella of chicagoblackhawks.com did a Q&A with the blue liner during this year’s prospect camp, where Gilbert said he looks up to another pretty good shot blocker on the Hawks.
From the Blackhawks, [I look up to] Niklas Hjalmarsson. He plays a really gritty style of play. He works really hard, blocks a lot of shots, does whatever it takes to win. That’s kind of what I try to do for my team now at Notre Dame.
What's next in 2016-17
Gilbert will return to Notre Dame for his sophomore year, where he should take on a bigger role in their lineup. Continuing to develop his skill on both ends of the ice will be important for Gilbert, as the young defenseman could soon earn a shot at making the Blackhawks with their organization depth at defenseman being depleted in recent years. He projects as a useful two-way second or third pair defenseman, so a breakout sophomore season would go a long way toward helping him stride closer to his ceiling.
Second City Hockey's Top 25 Under 25 rankings
No. 18: Dennis Gilbert
No. 19: Luc Snuggerud
No. 20: Robin Norell
No. 21: Robin Press
No. 22: Dylan Sikura
No. 23: Graham Knott
No. 24: Anthony Louis
No. 25: Roy Radke
Honorable mentions: Radovan Bondra, Joni Tuulola, Mathias From, John Dahlstrom, Lucas Carlsson