Monday, March 16, 2009

Penalty Kill: Jake Gardiner

Updated look at Gardiner (11/6/09) available here.

I'm shorthanded today, as Daniel is handling some offline business. That's bound to happen from time to time here at Anaheim Calling, life being what it is, but we've planned ahead for these scheduling emergencies with these solo "Penalty Kill" posts. For my part, I will try to use my PK posts to highlight players that are (or that I feel should be) in the Ducks organization.

With the Conference tourneys warming up in college hockey, I thought we should take a look at Jake Gardiner.

[Gardiner assists the first two goals in the video and pretty much scores the last one]

The Ducks traded down in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, and picked 17th overall. They claimed 6'2" 175 lb. offensive-defenseman Jake Gardiner, who played all four years at Minnetonka High School in Minnesota, though only the last year on the blueline.

Gardiner now plays for the University of Wisconsin-Madison in college hockey's WCHA. In 35 games for the Badgers, Jake's posted 2G (both on the Power Play) and 16A on 58 shots. He's a breathtaking skater, who can lead a rush or make the smooth quarterback moves on the man-advantage, but his incredible on-ice awareness makes him much more valuable as a blueliner than he ever was as a forward.

The one 'knock' I can place on him, from the televised games this season, is that he needs to fill out physically. He's strong on his skates and he's a smart checker, but he'll need to show that he can physically dominate at the 200 lb. mark without sacrificing any of the quickness in his feet and hands.

Luckily, Gardiner has seen plenty of ice time with Junior defenseman and Hurricanes' property, Jamie McBain. The Badgers' Assistant Captain has a better pedigree than Gardiner, having played high school hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary's, and that shows in his conditioning. Jamie plays textbook offensive defense at 197lbs., and he was imposing his visage on the Hobey Baker picture until the last few games of the season. A testament to his leadership, he went scoreless in six games and the Badgers lost four of them. McBain has given Gardiner a look at an NHL-ready offensive defenseman, where Gardiner hopes to be in two years.

Wisconsin swept the Mankato Mavericks over the weekend to advance to the WCHA Final Five. The Badgers were, as usual, unstoppable at the Kohl Center, opening up a 2G 2nd period and a 5G 3rd period in the first game on Friday. Mankato pulled Zacharias in the 3rd, and Gardiner immediately found the net with a wicked wrister from the blueline that got behind relief goaltender Dan Tomey. Gardiner would tack on 2A (1EV, 1PP) during superfluous scoring on the way to a 7-1 victory.

The Ducks' prospect failed to show up on the scoreboard in the second game on Saturday, but he got a few clean shots on goal and made some timely defensive plays in a tight 4-2 victory.

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