The Blackhawks signed defenseman prospect Dennis Gilbert to a three-year entry-level contract, the team announced Friday. He will report immediately to Rockford for the IceHogs’ AHL playoff run.
Gilbert, 21, was the Blackhawks’ third-round pick (No. 91 overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft. He played the last three years at Notre Dame, where he emerged as one of the top defensemen for one of the best programs in the country. The Fighting Irish reached the Frozen Four in each of the last two seasons and lost the 2018 national championship game to Minnesota-Duluth.
As a result of the deep NCAA Tournament run preventing Gilbert from signing earlier, he was unable to burn a year of his ELC playing in the NHL like Dylan Sikura and Blake Hillman did. As a result, Gilbert’s deal technically starts next season and runs through 2020-21. A cap hit has not been reported yet.
Gilbert won’t blow anyone away with his offensive ability, but he’s a physical defenseman in an NHL frame (6’2, 198 pounds) who’s shown improvement in his ability to transition the puck up the ice. His best statistical season came as a sophomore with 22 assists in 40 games. As a junior, he recorded four goals and six assists in 39 games.
The Blackhawks now have a number of young defensemen who will be competing for opportunities in training camp next fall. In addition to the recent signees, Gilbert and Hillman, there will also be Gustav Forsling, Carl Dahlstrom, and Luc Snuggerud along with the six NHL defenseman under contract.