The Devils' second overall pick in the draft is the 41st pick - just 11 spots after their first. We are going to be looking at a possible second round pick today who could turn into a great NHL forward with his high hockey IQ. Reid Gardiner is a smart center who saw his draft stock rise although his stats dropped last season.
Who is Reid Gardiner?
Reid Gardiner is a 5'11", 185 lbs center from Humboldt, Saskatchewan. After a less than impressive 2012-2013 season with just seven goals and thirteen assists, Gardiner took off at the start of 2013-2014 with 19 goals and 34 points in 27 games. Following the Christmas break, though, he slowed down a great deal - he had just three goals and ten points in his following 33 games. That's a drop from 1.26 PPG to 0.30. So why did he rise from the 40th ranked North American Skater to the 29th in the most recent NHL Central Scouting ranks? He plays smart on both ends of the ice.
One of Gardiner's greatest assets is his hockey IQ, and he knows it. He recently told Kelly Friesen of Buzzing the Net,
"I think it (hockey IQ) is my best strength. I feel I'm a smart player that can read plays and knows where to go at the right time. It really helps me make good plays. And I think it's important to be good in your own end. I try to work hard to get back and stop other teams from getting offensive chances."
He had a few chances early last season to play along side one of the stars of this year's draft, Leon Draisaitl (expected to go in the top five). He used playing with him as a learning experience and as a way to take some pressure off of his shoulders with Draisaitl always in the spotlight.
Gardiner enjoys being a set-up man. He gives it his all in starting rushes and creating chances whenever possible. He models his play off of Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens. He appreciates Gallagher's willingness to give 100% every shift and put himself in the tough spots of the ice even though he isn't the biggest player out there.
In his most recent season with the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL he was used on both the power play and penalty kill and saw some time on the top line. He also sees time in the final minutes of close games, and has been known to perform under that pressure.
Part of the reason Gardiner was less than stellar in 2012-2013 was he was a 16-year-old rookie playing in the bottom six. In his second season with the team, there was more trust put into his play, he had more confidence, and he was put on the ice with more skilled players. He used the opportunities given to him and jumped on them. He also noted that he elevated his play after being left off of Canada's Under-18 team last summer. He used that snub as motivation and carried it over into the start of 2013-2014.
What experts are saying about Gardiner:
"Gards is a guy who works hard on the ice, he works hard off the ice. He comes to the rink every day and competes hard and really cares about the game. His skill-set is phenomenal; he has a really good shot. I think that's probably one of his biggest assets."
"Among Gardiner's enticing attributes, his hockey IQ and strong two-way game seem to stand out the most. The Humboldt, Sask., native has made a reputation for having a knack for reading and reacting to plays well while playing a 200-foot game."
I like Reid Gardiner. He has a solid approach to the game and has improved as his career has progressed. I think he will only get better since he has such a high hockey IQ and focuses on strong play all over the ice. If he is willing to put in the work and improves his scoring touch so the goals come more consistently, he could turn into something special. He has shown that he can rack up the points, the issue now is can he do it on a regular basis?
Gardiner sees the ice well and is able to adjust his game as the play changes. Players like that can find ways to improve their game, especially with the work ethic he has shown. I would be happy with Gardiner as the second round pick for New Jersey.
What do you think of Reid Gardiner? Do you think he would be a smart pick at 41st overall? Is there anything about his game that makes you think the Devils shouldn't take him? Please leave your thoughts and comments on Gardiner below. Thanks for reading!