After moonlighting with the IceHogs at the end of the past two seasons, center David Gilbert will be among the next group of rookie skaters to begin their professional careers with the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate in Rockford this fall.
Gilbert, a Chateauguay, Quebec, native, was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the seventh round (209th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Rockford fans may remember the 6-foot-2, 185-pound center, as he donned the IceHogs' sweater at the end of each of the past two seasons - one game in 2009-10 and five games in 2010-11.
“It went really well and was a lot of fun getting to play with pro guys,” says Gilbert. “I want to play in the NHL, and if I have to go to Rockford to learn more then I will; I'll do anything to get better and reach my dream of playing in the NHL.”
Gilbert has played the last four years with the Quebec Remparts and Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the QMJHL. In 52 games last season in Acadie-Bathurst, he had 51 points (28G, 23A). But making the jump from juniors to the professional stage can be daunting for any player.
“The biggest difference is the execution and that these pro guys are so much bigger and faster,” he says. “Speed and execution are the main things, and that fits well for me because speed is one of the best parts of my game.”
Even in the offseason, Gilbert is training and trying to improve his game so he can fulfill his dream.
“Over the summer I gained weight; I’m looking to get bigger because I have the frame for it,” says Gilbert. “I also want to get stronger on my skates so I can win battles against the bigger professional guys.”
In his six games with the IceHogs, he racked up four points (2G, 2A). Gilbert says that playing even the one game in 2010 allowed him to get his feet wet and have confidence in his five games last season.
Gilbert took one more step toward his pro career last month when he participated in his third Blackhawks Prospect Camp in Chicago. With his past experience at the camp, Gilbert says that he knew what to expect coming in.
“The main thing I’ve taken from the years at camp is experience and hard work, along with having fun and meeting the new guys,” he says.
After completing his over-age year within the Q, and a brief stint in Rockford, Gilbert inked a three-year entry-level contract with the Blackhawks this May. And he can’t wait to finally get a jump on his professional career.
“Learning is the biggest thing - I really want to learn more this year,” said Gilbert. “I don’t want to set individual goals for myself. Learning at the pro level and getting stronger to play against the bigger guys is my main focus, as well as getting to the NHL as soon as I can.”
When looking ahead, Gilbert has been keeping a close eye on his potential future teammates. Jonathan Toews is a player that he looks to model his game after.
“I really tried to watch a lot of the Blackhawks players after I got drafted by Chicago," he says. "Toews is one of the best players out there, and he has a lot of leadership. He's someone I look up to as a role model.”
Time will only tell where Gilbert’s career will take him. But this season will be an important first step in his promising professional career.