Jake Gardiner Scouting Report by Gus Katsaros and Ryan Dadoun
Former Ducks prospect entered Leafs training camp with the goal of cracking the lineup and even he was surprised by the level of responsibility he was given. The six-foot-two, 184-pound rearguard ended up dressing in 75 contests and averaged 21:35 minutes per game, due in no small part to his puck-handling and skating prowess. There was an adjustment period for Gardiner, which culminated in a brief stint in the minors in early January. The 22-year-old caught fire upon return, scoring seven goals and 20 points in his final 40 games (40-7-13-20). Gardiner became the only 2011-12 rookie defenceman to reach the 30-point milestone. He succeeds because of his ability to create breathing room and time before shooting and he has a knack for delivering the puck to his teammates crisp and on the tape. Coupled with his speed and superb puck control – even during dangerous situations – he has the tools necessary to exploit a strong skating stride. His shortcomings defensively are evident as a rookie. Gardiner isnâ€™t particularly physical despite his height advantage and his intensity can waiver â€“ which can be misleading since his alertness is always on high. Coach Randy Carlyle commented that he would like to see Gardiner be more competitive when dealing with opposing forwards. The 2008 first-round pick (17th overall) gradually bulked up during the season and began to position himself better in one-on-one defensive situations. Gardiner will only improve as he adds muscle to a lean frame.
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