Leafs at the World Juniors: Jake Gardiner, 2010

While the American squad was eliminated today from this year’s World Juniors with 3-2 loss to Russia, Jake Gardiner’s time with the team at the World Juniors in 2010 had a far better outcome for his home country. 

The Stats:

Gardiner posted three assists in his seven games with the team. However, two of his assists came in a 12-1 drubbing of Latvia in the preliminary round, but he did contribute a key assist in the semifinals against Sweden to tie the game at 2-2. Gardiner’s efforts ranked him third on his team in defensive scoring.

The Result:

In a gold medal game played in Saskatchewan, USA and Canada played a game for the ages (when don’t they?) in the gold medal game. USA ultimately came out on top, winning 6-5 in overtime, breaking Canada’s five-year gold medal streak.

Key Teammates:

John Carlson, Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan, Cam Fowler and Tyler Johnson are all notable NHLers who were on the squad. No superstars per se, but all respectable players in their own right in their NHL careers.

The scouts’ take:

Gardiner had been taken two drafts prior, 17th overall by Anaheim in the 2008 draft.  He was in his sophomore year in the University of Wisconsin and still an Anaheim pick at the time. Since Gardiner was in an American university and in the system of an American team, his exposure wasn’t quite as documented as many Canadian prospects would be.

Hockeysfuture.com rated Gardiner as “a versatile offensive defenseman with size, quick feet and great hands,” while projecting him as a top-four, puck moving defender. Seems accurate today.

Although he didn’t explode offensively at the World Juniors, he performed admirably enough. It’s unknown whether Gardiner was being eyed by the Leafs at this point in time, but it was about a year later when he was included in a package along with Joffrey Lupul for Francois Beauchemin. It’s a possibility Toronto’s management saw something they liked in Gardiner then, propelling the idea to include him in the trade.