Master Gardiner

A switch a year ago from forward to defenseman paved the way for Jake Gardiner to be selected by the Ducks in the first round

Saturday, 06.21.2008 / 2:02 AM / NHL Entry Draft
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Master Gardiner
By Adam Brady
AnaheimDucks.com

"This is the best feeling I've ever had in my life," said Gardiner of being drafted by the Ducks. "I'm so excited right now. It's a great organization I'm going to."

Oh, how things can change in just a year.

A year ago Jake Gardiner was a self-proclaimed “average skater” as a forward at Minnetonka High School with flickering hopes of a long-term future in the game. Now the 17-year-old is the property of the Anaheim Ducks, who selected Gardiner 17th overall in the NHL Entry Draft and provided him with “the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life.”  

The sudden transformation came in great part from a position change Gardiner underwent a year ago at the suggestion of Minnesota State University, Mankato coach Troy Jutting, who evaluated Gardiner during a visit to the school. Jutting urged Gardiner to move back to the blueline and focus on becoming an offensive defenseman.

“He just thought, there are 1,000 kids who play forward and can handle the puck,” Gardiner said, minutes after he took the stage with Ducks personnel at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.  “But there are only a few who can do it playing defense. “

Gardiner said he laughed at the suggestion at first, since he had spent his entire playing life on the front line. “But then I was like, ‘Yeah, this might work.' And sure enough it did.

"When I was a forward, I was an average skater, and for some reason when I went to defense, it opened people’s eyes. Now I’m here today getting drafted in the NHL.”

The 6-0, 180-pounder paved the way for that selection by scoring 16 goals and adding 27 assists in just 25 high school games. His 43 points ranked third among Minnesota high school defensemen, as he helped Minnetonka to a 24-4-0 record. He was a finalist for the 2008 Mr. Hockey Award given to the top Minnesota high school hockey player, standing out among a glut of talented players from the hockey-rich state.

“Jake is one of the best skaters in the draft, if not the best,” said Ducks Director of Amateur Scouting Alain Chainey.  “He is good on the power play and brings an offensive dynamic that you don’t often find in a defenseman.”

The Ducks had been looking at taking Gardiner with the 12th pick in the Draft, but midway through the round Anaheim traded down to 17th with the hopes that Gardiner would still be around.  When it came time for the Ducks to pick, they wasted little time in snatching him.

“If you asked all 30 teams all the floor to describe Jake Gardiner in one word, they would say – speed,” said Ducks Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Burke. “He can fly. He’s a great skater. We think he’s going to develop and fill out and learn the game. We think his upside is terrific.”

“If you asked all 30 teams all the floor to describe Jake Gardiner in one word, they would say – speed,” said Burke. “He can fly. He’s a great skater. We think he’s going to develop and fill out and learn the game. We think his upside is terrific.”

Gardiner will undergo that development with the help of a renowned coaching staff at the University of Wisconsin, where he hopes to continue to learn the position he took on just a short time ago.

“I need to work on my defensive awareness and learn the position more,” he said.  “I was a forward only a year ago. I just need time. But I think I’ll be ready to play in the NHL.”

Gardiner would love to get there quickly enough to play alongside one of his idols, Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer.  “It would be sweet to play with Scott Niedermayer,” Gardiner said. “He’s an amazing player, a great skater and probably one of the best defenseman in the NHL. That would be unreal.”

Ducks execs indicated to Gardiner that he would be the type of player they are looking to step into Niedermayer’s shoes, since even if the veteran comes back this season, his possible retirement is on the horizon.

“It’s some pressure,” he said with a laugh. “But I think I can handle it.”

In the meantime, he’s just happy to be part of the future of the Ducks. “I’m so excited right now,” Gardiner said. “It’s a great organization I’m going to. They just won the Cup last year, so I’m very happy with it.”

Just before leaving to celebrate in a suite with his family and Ducks execs and scouts, Gardiner was asked by a reporter what fans can expect of him. He didn’t hesitate to answer.

“I hate to lose,” he said. “And I love winning. I’m the most competitive guy on the ice. I’ll help the Anaheim Ducks win.”

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WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Getzlaf 77 31 56 28 87
C. Perry 81 43 39 32 82
N. Bonino 77 22 27 14 49
M. Perreault 69 18 25 13 43
A. Cogliano 82 21 21 13 42
C. Fowler 70 6 30 15 36
K. Palmieri 71 14 17 9 31
D. Winnik 76 6 24 6 30
H. Lindholm 78 6 24 29 30
S. Koivu 65 11 18 3 29
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
F. Andersen 20 5 0 .923 2.29
J. Hiller 29 13 7 .911 2.48


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