Puck rushing defensemen create a noticeable hole once removed from the lineup.
That’s what Jake Gardiner is, a skilled puck rushing blueliner. The ability to take the line and set up in the offensive zone has spawned studies into the importance of zone entries. The early evidence is that there’s a big advantage to having a defenseman with the ability to gain the line.
This year, thanks to the most recent NHL lockout, Gardiner will begin the year with the Marlies. What are some reasonable expectations for him and how do we measure defensemen scoring success at the AHL level? From last season, Norfolk’s Mark Barberio led the AHL with 61 points, with 62.3% coming on the power play. Bobby Sanguinetti led the top-10 with 0.83 points-per-game.
Can Gardiner appear among these lists should there be a full season in the AHL should the lockout last the entire season? Below is the 2011-12 listing.
As the Toronto Marlies proceeded to their first Calder Cup Finals last season, the former Ducks 1st rounder scored a respectable 11 points in 17 games, finishing second overall among AHL defensemen in the playoffs, one point behind new Marlies teammate Mike Kostka (18-6-6-12).
The Marlies ranked 27th on the power play last season clicking at a 14.6% clip, slipping in the playoffs to 11.9%.
Gardiner registered six power play assists representing points on 60% of the Marlies 10 playoff power play markers. Having Gardiner’s ability to shoot and Kostka’s decent shot should add another dimension along the blueline.