BERLIN - When the Blackhawks' charter flight crossed the North Atlantic Ocean en route to stops in Berlin and Prague as part of the 2019 NHL Global Series, 27 players were on board.
A maximum of 23 of them can be on the active roster when the '19-20 regular season begins Friday against the Flyers, so it doesn't take a math whiz to see that the numbers won't add up for at least a couple of players who made the trip. A few lingering injuries as well as final battles for jobs have the final roster in flux and that has kept things interesting for two players who have risen above other training camp hopefuls to remain in the mix: forward Anton Wedin and defenseman Dennis Gilbert.
While each was thrilled to hear they would be making the trip to Europe, they soon catapulted past the just-happy-to-be-here mentality and are determined to make the most of their extended opportunities to state their cases.
"Everyone here is pushing to make a good impression with the coaching staff, whether they've been here 15 years or 15 days," said Gilbert, who skated alongside veteran Calvin de Haan during Saturday's practice at Mercedes-Benz Arena. "It's important to just keep working hard and controlling what you can control and just putting your best foot forward every day."
Gilbert, who played 63 games with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs last season, as well as one with the Blackhawks, has caught the eyes of coach Jeremy Colliton and Senior Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman with his hard-nosed, high-energy physical play, something that the Blackhawks didn't have much of during the 2018-19 season.
"That's always been a big part of my game," Gilbert said. "I was always someone that didn't shy from physicality and someone who plays a pretty intense style of play. It's nice that they're kind of looking for some of that. It's not stuff that's crazy hard to do. It's more a willingness and effort to do those things. If that's something important to them, obviously it's important to me.
"I just want to keep doing as much as I can-within reason," the 22-year-old said. "Obviously, you don't want to be stupid with anything. But playing a controlled game and being hard to play against is something that I've worked on the last couple of years and look forward to keep doing."
Getting a taste of the NHL last season gave Gilbert, drafted by the Blackhawks in the third round (90th overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft, a boost to his game. While he said he's not surprised to still be with the team, "I didn't expect it, either."
"All I can really do is control my play and how I'm working and my willingness to do different things," Gilbert continued. "It was obviously great news to hear that I was coming on the trip. It's cool to be in Berlin right now and then Prague but for me it's just more days with the team to kind of get closer with some of the guys and get more acclimated with the staff and getting more comfortable."
Even more under the radar has been Wedin, who just keeps hanging around after making the move to North America from Sweden this summer. The forward has shown his versatility by playing both center and winger during the preseason, something Colliton values.
"I'm just trying to get better every game and every practice," Wedin said. "There are a lot of new things here to get used to like the ice and the different way to play if you compare it to Europe."
The extended look, as well as his strong showing in preseason play, has proven to Wedin that he is ready to make the jump to the NHL.
"I feel confident I can play at that level but at the same time I feel like I haven't found my game 100 percent yet," Wedin, 26, said. "I feel better and better every day so I'm confident I'll get there."
Whether Gilbert and/or Wedin make the team, Colliton believes the experience the two are garnering will benefit both them and the team down the line.
"We're trying to build depth in a larger group," Colliton said. "Whether those guys make the team or whether they're just part of our depth that we have in Rockford, we want to have competition. It's not just within the roster that we have here - some of the guys who we just sent down we view … as also part of that group that is going to help us win this year."