David Gust’s journey to first Blackhawks goal follows movie-like script

After years of toiling away in the minor leagues and nearly quitting hockey last summer, Gust earned an NHL contract with his hometown team and then scored his first goal during his first shift.

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David Gust and Colin Blackwell celebrate.

David Gust (right) scored his first NHL goal Saturday off an assist from Colin Blackwell (left).

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Less than a year ago, career minor-leaguer David Gust considered quitting hockey and moving into the next stage of his life.

On Saturday, the 29-year-old forward scored his first NHL goal on his first shot of his first shift of his first game. And he did it with his hometown team, having grown up a Blackhawks fan in suburban Orland Park.

It could be a Disney movie any day now.

“Can’t write it up any better,” Gust said.

The storybook goal — followed by another first-of-the-season strike from Brett Seney — helped give the Patrick Kane-less Hawks the necessary offense to eventually beat the Sharks 4-3 in a shootout.

Gust’s parents were in attendance at the SAP Center to see it, too, having altered travel plans quickly after his scheduled debut was moved up from Monday (against the Ducks) to Saturday.

“In the intermission, I saw them bawling their eyes out,” Gust said. “That was special to them.”

The undersized (5-10, 175 pounds) winger out of Ohio State had been a fairly productive AHL player throughout his career, having bounced around — like many minor-leaguers do — from Bakersfield to Charlotte to the Wolves over the last two seasons.

He never was a star at that level, though, and it didn’t seem like an NHL opportunity was in the cards. Last summer, at age 28 and with a pregnant wife, he figured it might be time to move on.

But then the Hawks came calling, and although they couldn’t guarantee anything more than what he had always received, the fact the offer came from the Hawks pulled at his heartstrings. A dedicated fan throughout his pre-professional life, his memory of attending the Hawks’ Stanley Cup-clinching Game 6 against the Lightning in 2015 remains vivid.

“Growing up, how could you not cheer for those teams during that dynasty time?” he said.

“At the beginning of the year, [during] contract talks, they said, ‘If you do your part, we’ll do the best we can to see if we can move you to an NHL deal.’ [The possibility] was there, but that hasn’t really happened that much in the American league, so it was just cool.”

Gust certainly did his part, erupting for a career-best season with Rockford. He leads the team and ranks in the top 10 in the AHL with 24 goals and 50 points in 51 games. IceHogs coach Anders -Sorensen praised him unprompted during a January interview as being “really, really good for our group.”

With the Hawks’ roster in flux — a number of players are injured, and several more likely will be traded soon — the team needed some fill-in forwards and decided Gust had earned the chance.

They informed him Monday — although they didn’t announce the signing until Thursday — and it just so happened Gust planned to have dinner with his parents for his birthday Tuesday. It turned into a celebration of more than that.

“My agent called me, and he was like, ‘Where are you? Can we meet? I’ve got good news to tell you,’ ” he said. “I surprised my parents with a birthday dinner that turned into telling them that I was going to get an NHL deal and possibly a call-up.”

The call-up was indeed made, and Gust, on the ice with Jason Dickinson and Colin Blackwell for his first shift Saturday, did what has made him so successful in Rockford: He got into a dangerous scoring area around the net. Blackwell passed the puck from the corner, and Gust calmly knocked it through Sharks goalie Kaapo Kahkonen’s five-hole.

The rest of his debut was less eventful but solid nonetheless. He finished with five shots, including two on goal, and one hit in 14:25 of ice time.

“Guys were really pumped,” coach Luke Richardson said. “They were really happy for him.”

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