A balanced, talented winger with a two-way game and a nose for the net raises some intriguing possibilities for clubs looking for a sleeper.
Current Team: Prince Albert Raiders, WHL
Date of Birth: January 19, 1996
Place of Birth: Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada
Weight: 183 lbs
Once more back to the WHL for an intriguing winger. Reid Gardiner showed significant improvement in his second campaign with the Prince Albert Raiders, more than doubling his point production, garnering 24 goals and 23 assists in 75 regular season and playoff games. Still, he was disappointed by the season overall, as his production flagged in the second half of the year.
The intra-season inconsistency did not appear to dissuade the scouts, however, as he rose from a #40 slot in the mid-term NHL Central Scouting Rankings to #29 in the final rankings. Not terribly surprising, as Gardiner's game has a lot to commend itself to interested NHL clubs. While he will not pop your eyes open with speed or flashiness, he does everything well. He also has that unteachable knack for finding his way to those little seams on the ice, with nobody noticing how he got there. That's a good skill to have, particularly when you're a bit undersized in a league moving increasingly toward "heavy" play. Still, Gardiner holds his own in the defensive end and has good vision of the ice.
At the older end of the draft class, with a January birthday, Gardiner promises to be a quick learner, and could be NHL ready faster than many of his draft contemporaries. He could be a true "sleeper" pick for some club, as he could go anywhere from the late first round down to the mid-ranges of the second round.
Here's what Central Scouting had to say on Gardiner's game:
He was under the radar most of the season as a medium-sized winger who has good, disciplined positional play. He's pretty crafty in the offensive zone and gets to the open scoring areas. He's a solid two-way player with a good work ethic. -- B.J. MacDonald, NHL Central Scouting
A Good Fit in Columbus?
With the usual caveat about the dynamics of draft positions, Gardiner would be a player I think the Blue Jackets would have on their radar in the second round. With all-around ability, a sense of responsibility, and the demonstrated ability to both score and make plays, he could provide some depth at the wing, with the prospect of potentially being ready for the big time in a couple of years. That could be a good timetable for the Blue Jackets, depending upon what other moves come their way over the next three weeks.
By the way, as the video below shows, Gardiner is not afraid to mix it up with the opposition. However, he might want to take a few pugilistic lessons before trying this at the NHL level. Just sayin' . . .
Gardiner on Video