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PPP's Top 25 Under 25 - #2 Jake Gardiner


Claus Andersen

So let's go back to about two months ago.

We're finishing up the voting for this edition of the Top 25. I've received 8 of the 9 lists of votes, with the final list coming later that night. In an effort to stay on top of things and not have the list drag too far into the preseason, I started tabulating the results, and with eight of nine votes accounted for, I found that one of the closest set of results, not just in PPP's history of doing Top 25 series, but I think in just about any SBN hockey site's history, would come right down to the wire.

Eight votes counted, and we had a tie for first place. With PPP about to pick the winner.

And what does he do? He punts and puts Nazem Kadri first.

So that was a bit anti-climactic.

Still, the tie had to be broken, and by the slimmest of margins, one single point, Jake Gardiner, like Nazem Kadri yesterday, is stuck right where he was last year, and heart-breakingly close to winning.

Birthyear: 1990-07-04 Birthplace: Deephaven, MN, USA
Age: 24 Nation: USA
Position: D Shoots: L
Height: 188 cm / 6'2" Weight: 83 kg / 183 lbs
Contract: 18/19
Drafted: 2008 round 1 #17 overall by Anaheim Ducks

Gardiner took a major step forward last season.

On a defence that was normally in shambles, Gardiner had moments of real progression, establishing his place in the Leafs line-up, and by season's end he was becoming a heavily relied upon option, serving an apprenticeship to take some of the burden away from the horribly overworked pair of Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson. A talented offensive defenceman, Gardiner matched his offensive contributions from his first season in the NHL, chipping in 10 goals and 31 points, very solid total for a defenceman.

But it was when we started to dig into the details on Gardiner's season, that his value started to shine through.

By now, everyone's familiar with the work Corey Snajzder has done on Zone Entries and Exits. And most people are probably also familiar with the work draglikepull did, using the data Snajzder had accumulated to date to examine zone exit and entry data for the Maple Leafs.

When looking at both how effective the Leafs defence were at exiting the defensive zone, and entering the offensive zone, Jake Gardiner's numbers were extremely impressive, especially on a team that struggled so badly to retain possession. With the Leafs new analytics team up and running, one can only hope that the Leafs will figure a way to allow Jake Gardiner to continue to play to his strengths and be an effective puck-moving defenceman.

Name birky BowerPower Burtch Chemmy clrkaitken Nikota PPP SkinnyFish 67 Sound FINAL RANK
Jake Gardiner 1 2 1 3 1 2 3 1 4 2
Previous Ranking 1 2 2 3 3 3 2 1 1 2

Just like with Kadri, the votes didn't really change all that much. Gardiner managed to move up slightly on a few ballots, only falling one spot on PPP's and a surprising three on 67 Sound's. I'm sure there will be a bit of controversy when you see the rankings for our winner (but I won't spoil that just yet).

Just know that just like I mentioned yesterday, this was an incredibly close contest that came right down to the wire. Jake Gardiner is poised to take a major breakthrough this season (and his birthday might see him jusssst squeeze into next year's contest), so a 1st place finish to send him off could be in the cards.

It was really close for me between Kadri (3rd) and Gardiner (4th). Gardiner will make mistakes, but hiz ability to skate the puck out of danger is essential in today's NHL. 67 Sound

For me, Kadri's a bonafide top six centre, and Gardiner a top four defence. I have reservations about whether Kadri could make it to the next level, but I think Gardiner gets there. And that's the difference on my list. clrkaitken