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No place like home for Gardiner

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ANAHEIM DUCKS
2007-08 SEASON STATS

Category Rank (Conference)
2007-08 Points 92 (9th East/16th NHL)
Change from 2006-07 +4
Home Points 52 (4th East/8th NHL)
Away Points 40 (10th East/22th NHL)

Defensemen are supposed to be the best skaters on the ice, and blueliner Jake Gardiner is no exception.

Gardiner, selected No. 17 in the 2008 Entry Draft by the Anaheim Ducks out of Minnetonka (Minn.) High School, is an offensive defenseman with a quick, accurate wrist shot. He also makes good decisions with the puck, but needs to bulk up to be an effective player in the NHL.

"Jake's biggest attribute is that he might be one of the best skaters in the draft -- he is just a pure skater," NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee said. "He used to be a forward and they made him a defensemen a few years ago -- and he loves being a defenseman. He is smart with the puck, unselfish and he's careful. He is another one that has grown all year, I had him measured at 6-foot (and) he might be almost 6-foot-2 and that's been not even a year. He's a greyhound right now, wiry, but he'll fill out. He is dynamic when he grabs the puck and goes. He has a very quick, dangerous wrist shot -- he gets it away like Joe Sakic does. The dimension of his quickness fools goalies. I liken him to Bret Hedican when he was in high school, but maybe a little more polished. He's an easy player to like."

While the number of U.S.-born NHL players has risen each of the past five years -- there were 203 American-born players in the League last season -- most follow the traditional Canadian route in their development. But Gardiner chose to stay in the U.S. because he couldn't turn down the opportunity to play for the Minnesota state championship.

"The state tournament's pretty much the place to be," Gardiner said. "You don't go to juniors because you want to play in the state tournament. And you want to win a state championship. That's one of the best feelings there is."

As much as Gardiner loved the state championship, it wasn't his favorite hockey moment. In fact, he wasn't even participating during his favorite hockey moment.

"I would probably have to say my sophomore year of my high school season," Gardiner said. "I wasn't even playing, actually. It was my team, this team was awesome. We made it to the state tournament, which was just a huge upset. It was probably one of the better feelings I've had."

Gardiner also stayed home so he could play with his younger brother, Max. Competing with Max has created a sibling rivalry that inspires Jake to be a better player.

"It's nice having my brother Max with me," Jake said. "We're so competitive with each other. We're always pushing each other, going our hardest all the time. He sees what kind of success I have, and he's following in my footsteps."

"Jake's biggest attribute is that he might be one of the best skaters in the (2008) draft -- he is just a pure skater.”

-- Jack Barzee, NHL Central Scouting

While Jake enjoys the familiarity and competition, he's also willing to travel to take his game to the next level. In the fall, Gardiner will attend the University of Wisconsin, where he will play for coach Mike Eaves.

While the Badgers undoubtedly will be grateful for Gardiner's presence, he has his eyes set on a spot on the Ducks' blue line. He even has an ideal defense partner in mind.

"It would be sweet to play with Scott Niedermayer," Gardiner told the Ducks' web site. "He's an amazing player, a great skater and probably one of the best defenseman in the NHL. That would be unreal."

Gardiner may get his chance in Anaheim in 2009-10, because the only blueliner the club has signed past this season is Chris Pronger.

"Jake is one of the best skaters in the draft, if not the best," Ducks Director of Amateur Scouting Alain Chainey told the team's Web site. "He is good on the power play and brings an offensive dynamic that you don't often find in a defenseman."

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