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07/19/2011 12:00 PM

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Rockford, Ill. – Last year’s lineup featured up to 14 rookies at one time.   The first year players combined for 70 goals and 131 assists in the 2010-11 season.  David Gilbert got his first glimpse of the pro game alongside the near full season rookies.  He will be among the next group of rookie skaters to begin their professional career in Rockford.

Gilbert, a Chateauguay, Quebec native, was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the seventh round (#209 overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Level Draft.  IceHogs fans may remember the 6-2, 185 lb. center, as he donned the Rockford sweater at the end of each of the past two seasons, one game in the 2009-10 season and five games in 2010-11.

“It went really well and was a lot of fun, getting to play with pro guys,” said Gilbert.  “I want to play in the NHL, and if I have to go to Rockford to learn more then I will, anything to get better to reach my dream of playing in the NHL.”

Gilbert has played the last four years with the Quebec Remparts and Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL).  In 52 games last season with the Titans 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 are pro guys, so they are bigger and faster,” said Gilbert.  “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 off season Gilbert is still training and trying to improve his game so he can finally reach his dream of making it to the NHL. 

“Over the summer I gained weight so I’m looking to get bigger because I have the frame for it,” stated Gilbert.  “I also want to get stronger on my skates so I can win battles against the bigger professional guys.”

He spent six games with the IceHogs the last two seasons racking up four points (2g-2a).  Playing one game in the 2009-10 season allowed him to get his feet wet and have confidence in his play during five games last season.  Gilbert credits the IceHogs players to helping him out as he started the next stage in his career. 

Earlier this month Gilbert participated in his third Blackhawks Prospect Camp in Chicago.  With his past experience at the camp, Gilbert knew what to expect coming into it. 

“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.”

After completing his over age year with Acadie-Bathurst in the QMJHL, and a brief stint in Rockford last spring, 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 individuals goals for myself.  Learning the pro level and getting stronger to play against the bigger guys is my main focus, as well as getting to the NHL as fast as I can.”

When looking ahead Gilbert has been keeping a close eye on his hopefully future teammates.  Jonathan Toews is a player that he looks to for modeling his play after.

“I really tried to watch a lot of the Blackhawks players after I got drafted by Chicago.  Toews is one of the best ones out there, and he has a lot of leadership so he is someone I look up to as a model.”

Time will only tell where Gilbert’s career will take him.  But wherever it is, he is ready to learn what he can to make it as far as possible.

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