SUNRISE, Fla. – Dennis Gilbert was in a win-win situation. As he glanced up at the NHL draft board, he saw Chicago was up with pick No. 91. The Buffalo Sabres were on deck at No. 92. Both teams had scouted the Buffalo native, and odds were good one was calling his name.
The nameplate the Sabres brought to Florida for Gilbert had to stay under their draft table. Chicago beat them to the defenseman.
“Being from Buffalo it would have been really cool to go to the Sabres, but Chicago is a great organization and I’m more than thrilled to go there and be a Blackhawk,” Gilbert said in BB&T Center.
Chicago didn’t have to go far to watch Gilbert this season. He excelled for the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League, leading their blue-liners with 23 assists and 27 points in 59 games.
“It’s a dream come true to be drafted by any team, but being in Chicago last year and experiencing the city and the area and really getting acclimated with the area made it that much more special,” Gilbert said while wearing Chicago’s red jersey. “The tradition in Chicago is second to none right now in the league, and I think the dynasty is only beginning.”
The Blackhawks, of course, have had tremendous success with another Buffalo native. Patrick Kane has been a key to their run of three Stanley Cups in six years.
“In the summer I’ll skate with him a little while,” Gilbert said. “Obviously, he’ll be a guy that I talk to this summer about the ins and outs of Chicago and the league and wait it takes to be successful there.”
The 18-year-old, who will play at the University of Notre Dame, received hugs and handshakes from family members after his named was called.
“It’s a long two hours sitting there waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting to be called, but I’m just really excited and thankful,” Gilbert said. “The Combine in Buffalo was awesome being in the hometown, going through that and starting college as a freshman in mid-June was another great experience to go through. The month of June has been probably the best of my life so far.”