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Gardiner Adapting Just Fine

Thursday, 08.20.2009 / 3:11 PM PT / Features
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Gardiner Adapting Just Fine
By Adam Kimelman  - NHL.com Staff Writer

"He is one of those guys, when he gets the puck behind the net in his own zone and get going with it, he can move the puck and join the play as well as anyone at his level," Ducks Senior VP of Hockey Operations David McNab said of Gardiner.
Though Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Jake Gardiner, a Minneapolis native, could better be called a mountain climber. The speed with which Gardiner has scaled the learning curve while moving from forward to defense has been nothing short of astonishing.

The shift was done prior to 2007-08, his senior season at Minnetonka (Minn.) High School. It went so well -- he led his team with 20 goals and 48 points -- that the Anaheim Ducks selected him with the No. 17 pick of the 2008 Entry Draft.

As a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, he continued to grow into the position in 2008-09. He finished second among WCHA rookie defensemen and third on the Badgers with 21 points, earning a spot on the league's All-Rookie Team.

"He is one of those guys, when he gets the puck behind the net in his own zone and gets going with it, he can move the puck and join the play as well as anyone at his level," David McNab, Anaheim Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations, told NHL.com. "He's just one of those players with that extra gear that he can just turn it on and jump into holes and jump into the play. He anticipates the situation real well. I don't find him to be the kind of player who just goes all the time -- he seems to have figured that out pretty well.

"He made a big step last year at Wisconsin. The WCHA is an older league, a difficult league. For an 18-year-old to play as well as he did shows us a lot. ... Anyone that can skate as well as he can and has the hands and puck skills and offensive creativity, those are difficult players to find."

Dean Blais, who will coach the U.S. team at the 2010 World Junior Championship, understands McNab's position. After a week watching Gardiner in practices and games at the National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., in August, he came away very impressed. In three exhibition games against Russia, Gardiner showed great speed, skill and puckhandling ability.

"We weren't really sure he could play at that level," Blais told NHL.com. "He's playing defense at Wisconsin and he's improved his defensive game to where he was more reliable and wasn't running all over the ice. He's really improved the last two years.

"He's got an excellent chance of making the team."

"My defensive game has definitely improved and I feel a lot more comfortable," Gardiner said.
Gardiner was listed at 6-foot and 173 pounds when he was drafted, but after one college season, he's grown to 6-2 and 187. That physical growth is helping his growth into his new position.

"Last year I really didn't have a clue what I was doing out there," Gardiner told NHL.com. "It was one of my first times playing defense, so it was pretty interesting. My defensive game has definitely improved and I feel a lot more comfortable."

Gardiner said it wasn't until midway through last season that he finally felt like a college hockey player, rather than someone trying to play hockey at the NCAA level.

"In high school I could do whatever I wanted, it wasn't that much of a challenge for me," Gardiner said. "When I got to Wisconsin, I figured out fast I couldn't really skate the puck out that much, I had to pass to my teammates a little bit more, use my teammates. Guys are a lot stronger and bigger there, and the speed is a lot faster.

"I started on the third unit for defensive pairings. I played with (Jamie) McBain toward the end of the year, and that was a big help, he's a great player. Definitely halfway through the year I thought I started to settle in."

Gardiner will play at least one more season at Wisconsin, where he'll be able to continue to learn the intricacies of playing defense.

"This summer I've been lifting a lot, gaining some weight," he said. "Hopefully next year I'll get some power-play time, keep improving all my skills, defense and offense. And hopefully it leads me the right way."

The right way would be west, toward Anaheim. The Ducks certainly have liked what they've seen so far, but there's still more they need to see before believing Gardiner is NHL-ready.

"You just want guys to contribute and get better," McNab said. "Whenever you have a player you're always hoping that from one year to the next, when you see him play, he's made big strides, gotten bigger and stronger and more confident, make less mistakes, and for Jake, he's a far more offensive force game in and game out, shift in and shift out. Jake needs to be a guy that puts up points and score some goals. You hope when you go watch him right now he's a real offensive threat."

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WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 CHI 56 36 16 4 158 128 76
2 DAL 53 33 15 5 170 142 71
3 STL 55 30 17 8 132 129 68
4 LAK 51 31 17 3 135 117 65
5 SJS 51 27 20 4 147 138 58
6 NSH 53 25 20 8 136 139 58
7 COL 55 27 24 4 148 152 58
8 ANA 50 25 18 7 111 115 57
9 MIN 52 23 20 9 127 126 55
10 ARI 52 24 22 6 138 161 54
11 VAN 52 20 20 12 120 142 52
12 CGY 51 23 25 3 134 148 49
13 WPG 52 23 26 3 136 150 49
14 EDM 53 21 27 5 131 156 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Perry 50 21 14 -2 35
R. Getzlaf 46 4 30 6 34
R. Rakell 47 11 15 1 26
R. Kesler 50 11 15 -8 26
S. Vatanen 50 6 18 0 24
J. Silfverberg 50 6 11 -3 17
C. Stewart 44 7 9 1 16
A. Cogliano 50 5 11 -10 16
H. Lindholm 49 6 8 -4 14
C. Fowler 37 3 9 -9 12
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
F. Andersen 10 8 5 .918 2.35
J. Gibson 12 7 2 .923 1.92

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