By Jim HagertyReporter
ROCKFORD – When Rockford IceHogs defenseman Dennis Gilbert got here to the Chicago Blackhawks organizations on the finish of his 2018-19 collegiate season at Notre Dame, he was like quite a lot of third-round draft picks: adjusting in hopes of getting a stable professional profession.
This season, it’s fairly a unique story for the Buffalo, New York native. He’s acquired his first AHL season out of the way in which and comes into the 2019-20 marketing campaign not solely as final 12 months’s Most Improved Participant, however a unique one altogether. He impressed the Blackhawks in coaching camp greater than your common third-rounder, which was ok for Chicago to take him on its World Collection journey that included its season in opposition to Philadelphia in Prague final Friday.
Gilbert was a late call-up after being assigned to Rockford earlier than the Blackhawks introduced their opening day roster. Nevertheless, as a result of veteran Calvin de Haan was held out with a groin harm, Gilbert began the season up high as an alternative of with Rockford in Iowa. And though he was reassigned the subsequent day, extra calls from the large membership are prone to come before later.
“I believe my mindset coming right here final 12 months from the primary day I acquired right here was (to) probably not look long-picture, however simply to get higher every day,” he mentioned. “And having that thoughts and being according to working into that was an goal of mine that sort of paid off.”
Gilbert mentioned he stored the identical mindset over the summer season as he ready for camp, throughout which he proved he’s powerful, bodily and surprisingly expert for a giant, stay-at-home defender.
“He’s a was a matured participant now,” Rockford coach Derek King mentioned. “He’s actually labored on his sport. He’s turned himself into an NHL hockey participant.”
Gilbert, 22, completed the 2018-19 AHL marketing campaign with 5 targets and 9 assists in 63 video games with Rockford and posted a game-high six hits in his NHL debut in opposition to St. Louis on April 2, his solely recall.
And whereas he is aware of he’s bettering, there’s a degree he should attain to maneuver past bubble standing and be a fixture with the Blackhawks.
“I believe I’m a great skater,” he mentioned. “However I wish to be an incredible skater. I’m a great defender, however I wish to be an incredible defender. And to be nice at that degree, you must be dominant at this degree, so I’m going to be working actually arduous in observe and in video games to verify I’m pushing myself. Whether or not it’s my hole management, utilizing my toes to rise up ice and kill performs, being good offensively, taking a management position down right here, all these issues are going to assist me get higher.”
The Blackhawks are presently carrying seven defensemen, together with Connor Murphy, who’s additionally recovering from a groin pressure and was a scratch final Friday in opposition to the Flyers. Murphy has returned to observe whereas de Haan has not as of this report. If each are scratched for tomorrow’s dwelling opener in opposition to San Jose, Gilbert will probably get one other name.
Bacon BitsRockford dropped its season opener Three-2 on the Iowa Wild final Friday. The IceHogs are actually Eight-11-1-1 all-time within the first sport of the season, together with Four-7-1-1 throughout AHL affiliation. The final time Rockford gained a season opener was a Four-Zero shutout of Cleveland to start the 2016-17 season.
Matthew Highmore scored the IceHogs’ first objective of the season with a shorthanded strike within the second interval at Iowa. Highmore leads all IceHogs skaters (a minimum of 50 video games with the group) in targets/sport since making his debut in the course of the 2017-18 season with 28 markers in 77 contests (.36 targets/sport). As well as, he now has 9 targets with two hat methods in 11 profession video games in opposition to the Wild.
4 IceHogs skaters made their AHL debut in the course of the season opener in Iowa. Forwards MacKenzie Entwistle and Mikael Hakkarainen and defensemen Nicolas Beaudin and Adam Boqvist every made each their skilled and AHL debut in the course of the contest, with Entwistle tallying the first help on Highmore’s objective.
Entwistle picked up his first level (help) in his first professional sport Friday. The rookie ahead tallied a point-per-game common within the OHL final season and gained a second consecutive OHL championship. He concluded the common season with 57 factors (30g, 27a) in 57 video games between Hamilton and Guelph.
Dylan Sikura scored a objective in opposition to the Wild and has now tallied 5 targets over his final seven AHL video games with the IceHogs courting to April 2. Together with Friday’s marker, Sikura now has factors in 11 of his final 15 AHL contests and 14 complete factors (5g, 9a) over that 15-game span courting Jan. 21.
The Hogs scored the primary objective of the sport on Highmore’s second-period tally. Rockford netted the primary objective in 36 of 76 video games (47.Four%) in the course of the 2018-19 season and misplaced solely eight video games when scoring first (24-Eight-1-Three).
Rockford opens its dwelling marketing campaign at 6 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 12, in opposition to Grand Rapids.