What’s it been like playing with Connor Carrick? You guys had a chance last Spring, and now it continues here. It’s got to be a benefit for both of you.
Jake Gardiner: Yeah, just the way he plays. He moves the puck well. He sees the ice well, skates well. It’s nice to have a familiar face for sure.
Watching here and the confidence you guys played with in terms of navigating a forecheck — obviously you’ve got to get rid of it quickly but it was done with a little bit of patience involved. Is this all part of your development as a veteran player now?
Gardiner: I think part of that is that everyone is just sort of running around and doesn’t know the systems too well yet. That all will come. But both of us are pretty patient players. I like to make a good first pass. Sometimes I hold onto it a little bit too long, but I usually don’t like to throw it off the glass. Usually we make a solid pass.
The opportunity to produce offensively has been there the last few years — up around 30 points, 24 in the middle year. What do you see yourself doing this year? Do you intend on shooting the puck more? I know situations are going to have to present themselves, but do you see your goal totals possibly going up as you get a little more mature in this league?
Gardiner: Hopefully. That’s the goal for sure — to keep contributing offensively and obviously be solid defensively. I switched around some sticks this summer and tried a few different flexes and a few different curves. Hopefully I got the right recipe this year. I’d like to definitely contribute some more. We’ve got some young talent and I think that will definitely help, too.
What have you seen of Morgan? Have you had a chance to talk to him, given the fun and games he was able to have with Team North America.
Gardiner: Yeah, I’ve talked to him a few times. I think they’re taking a few days off now. I think they started pretty early on. Obviously the whole team was fun to watch. He had some success playing with Matthews. That was pretty fun to watch.
An opportunity up front to play with some new people, namely Auston Matthews. Did you get a chance to skate with him when you got to Toronto, and if so what do you see maybe from him as you guys get a chance to contribute offensively?
Gardiner: I didn’t get to skate with him, but just watching him play, you can tell he’s a really high-end player. First overall pick. Playing with McDavid, they looked like they’d been playing together forever. They just meshed really well. You see Marner today — he’s so much smarter than 95% of the players. He’s going to have, hopefully, an impact on our team if he makes the team.
The opportunity to see the game so well… William Nylander is the other one. How can you gauge his progress over the last three camps now?
Gardiner: He looks so comfortable now. Great offensively. Starting to really come around defensively as well to have that full, complete game. You’ve seen him grow a lot over the past couple of years. With him and Matthews, it’s going to be fun playing with those guys.
Finally training camp has become. It’s like the American Hockey League — three in three. Now after three days of camp you get to play Ottawa. The transition to live action like that — how difficult is it going to be for everyone given the offseason?
Gardiner: That first one is always pretty tough. Hopefully we’ll be ready to go. We’ve been skating a lot and getting ready for the season, but usually those first couple of games are a little rusty and guys are just starting to get into it. The guys look pretty good in camp here so far, so hopefully we can get out there and get a win.