Some would suggest the most valuable piece and true target for Brian Burke in last week’s Francois Beauchemin deal is University of Wisconsin defenceman Jake Gardiner. Undoubtedly, the inclusion of Joffrey Lupul and his $4.25 million cap hit was designed to make the monies work from Anaheim’s perspective. However, the term “salary dump” can be a bit demeaning in the sense that there was some reason Lupul received the contract he did from Philadelphia in the first place, and statistical indications suggest he can still be a decent second line forward in the NHL. That said, there is no foundation for this deal without Anaheim’s inclusion of the 20-year-old Minnesota native.
Gardiner is in the midst of a point-a-game (8 goals, 24 assists for 32 points in 32 GP), plus-20 season in his third year with the Badgers of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. His offensive skills from the backend are reflective of his position switch from forward to defence in his final year of high school hockey; similarly, so is the need to work on his game away from the puck as he continues about his development path.
MLHS was able to get a few quick thoughts over email from head of amateur scouting Dave Morrison, who is currently attending a Five Nations tournament in Europe.
1) I know Brian said that it’s ultimately up to the player as to when he leaves college, but when do you feel he’ll be ready to make the jump if he so desires?
DM: “He will be ready when he decides.”
2) Areas he needs to work on to reach the NHL level?
DM: “Like any young player, strength and maturity in his game.”
3) Was this a player the organization has had it’s eyes on for a while, or did the opportunity to grab him pop up and management jumped at it?
DM: “We monitor all players and therefore when a trade is made and a young player is involved we go after a player we like and feel will make our organization better. Jake fit the bill.”
4) What are his best attributes and what is his projected role at the NHL level?
DM: “Skating and his ability to skate the puck out of trouble and move it up the ice. Potential top 4.”
5) Does he have a physical dimension to his game?
DM: “He has decent size, is strong on his skates. Responsible physical game. He may need time to adjust to the physicality of the pro game but that is normal with any young player.”