Toronto, ON, Canada
In just four years as a full-fledged defenseman, Toronto Maple Leafs top prospect Jake Gardiner has blossomed into a versatile skater and appeared ready to take his game to the next level.
Selected 17th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, Gardiner never imagined himself getting near his NHL dream if he did not make 'the switch' four years ago.
Although he came out from highs school as one of the finest forwards in his class, Gardiner admitted his skill-set in the position was not enough to entice the eyes of NHL scouts.
"I'd probably be in college somewhere," Gardiner told The Globe Mail Wednesday. "I mean, I was considered a top line guy [as a forward], but I don't think I could play that role in the NHL or even college. You need to be able to score a lot of goals; I was scoring a few goals and a few assists."
Gardiner, who will likely replace Tomas Kaberle, credited Minnesota State hockey head coach Troy Jutting for advising him to make that crucial switch.
At the Oshawa Rookie tournament, Gardiner proved he's ready to play in the big league as he netted two goals in the Leafs rookies' 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks rookies Saturday.
Gardiner, who electrified the crowd with an end-to-end rush, also considered his three-year tenure under Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves as another reason behind his newfound success.
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