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Get to Know Dennis Gilbert:
Date of Birth: 10/30/1996
Place of Birth: Williamsville, NY, USA
Ht: 6’2″ Wt: 194 lbs
Team: Chicago Steel (USHL)
Dennis Gilbert grew up outside of Buffalo, NY and quietly has turned himself into an intriguing draft prospect as he rose the ranks. Starting in high school when he played for his father at St. Joe’s, Gilbert was a multi-sport star with who excelled especially on the ice. After winning a high school championship, Gilbert gave up other sports and jumped to the Junior Buffalo Sabres program, a Junior AA program, and showcased his skills for scouts.
The Chicago Steel thought enough of Gilbert’s game to select him in the 7th round of the USHL Draft and Gilbert ultimately had a decision to make. He had originally committed to Niagara University to play hockey but decided he could not pass up the opportunity to play major junior hockey in the United States and headed off for the USHL.
Gilbert played well in his one season in the USHL and is slated to attend Notre Dame next season.
What Scouts See
Gilbert is an extremely composed and poised defenseman. He is also the type of player who, as he grows more confident after a few nice plays defensively, gets even better. He’s a solid player, and even though he’s got great offensive instincts, he’s real strong defensively. He excels in the one-‐on-‐one situations, when the opposing forward is coming into the zone. He possesses an active stick with a deceptively long reach to poke the puck away or disrupt the timing of the forward.
Keeps his frame in the lanes and will play physical when needed. He shows some nastiness in front of his own net by taking a few liberties on the ankles of his opponents or delivering a big hit along the wall to separate the puck. The one major knock we have with Dennis is his feet. While he is balanced and possesses a powerful stride, he will definitely need to work on his burst and first few steps at Notre Dame, because he often can be caught from behind in puck retrieval.
What BSN Avalanche sees
Dennis Gilbert isn’t your classic defensive defensemen but he plays that side of the game like one, excelling at shutting down the opposition in his own zone. He possesses good size and a mean streak that allows him to impose his will on opposing puck carriers. He plays well on the penalty kill and profiles as a high level special teams ace who can chew up PK minutes. He has the reach like a pterodactyl so in the event he does get beat by a puck carrier, his stickwork allows him to recover ably.
Where Gilbert does struggle, as mentioned in the scouting report above, is with his feet. His balance on his skates is good but his foot speed is slow, making recovery difficult, and his acceleration and top speed are both underwhelming. He’s not a high level athlete and does not always look comfortable when he’s pressed by athletic players. His hips don’t possess a high level of natural fluidity as his transition skating and turn-and-chase are both too slow.
Offensively, he reads the game better than he plays it. He frequently makes good decisions with the puck, rarely taking chances but he struggles to consistently make high level passes that you prefer to see from defensemen at this level. He’s clearly a shutdown-style defensemen who will succeed or fail based upon his defensive development because his offensive upside is limited.
Highlights for defensive defensemen are hard to come by but this local Buffalo news report shows a video of Gilbert scoring a goal back in 2013.
Gilbert’s impressive size and strong defensive game means it is likely he could succeed as a third-pairing defenseman and if his skating and offensive game improve at Notre Dame, he could have a ceiling as a second-pairing player capable of playing 18 good minutes per night.
Expected Draft Position
Gilbert’s rankings, 58th by CSS and 93rd by Future Considerations, suggest he’s likely a mid-round selection. That he was not ranked on any other top 100 lists that have currently been published leaves a great deal of doubt that he’ll exceed his rankings come draft day.
How Prospect Fits in Avalanche Organization
Were the Avalanche to call Gilbert’s name on draft day, it would likely be in the fourth or sixth round (the Avalanche don’t have a 5th round pick thanks to last summer’s Briere-Parenteau trade) and he would join a loaded group of left-handed defensemen in the system. Chris Bigras, Duncan Siemens, Mason Geertsen, Will Butcher, Cody Corbett and Anton Lindholm all occupy the left side of the defensive pipeline already so Gilbert would only add to that group.
Gilbert’s skill set is a bit of a departure from several of those players as he is a defense-first player and from the above group only Geertsen fits that bill so he’d add depth at a somewhat shallow play style. Because of his college commitment, the Avalanche would have several years to allow Gilbert to develop and he could be part of the wave of prospects that breaks into pro hockey 3-4 years down the line, when most of the current crop of defensemen will either be into their second contracts or nearing the end of their entry-level contracts.
Gilbert’s style would be fit with the Avs despite the defensemen depth but unless the team spent its first three draft picks on forwards, I’d prefer for the organization to look elsewhere in the later rounds. If they did select all forwards, it would make sense to draft Gilbert as a draft-and-follow prospect, leaving him to develop at Notre Dame for at least 3 years.
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