Gardiner has been nice surprise

Leafs defensive prospect Jake Gardiner has been giving his employers plenty to think about during...

Leafs defensive prospect Jake Gardiner has been giving his employers plenty to think about during pre-season camp. (ERNEST DOROSZUK/QMI Agency)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:51 PM ET

TORONTO - For defensive prospect Jake Gardiner, his first Leafs training camp was expected to be just the next step on the road to becoming an NHLer.

Instead, the smooth-skating blue liner has been giving his employers plenty to think about.

“So far, and it’s just through three games, he’s making it difficult,” Leafs senior vice-president of hockey operations Dave Nonis said Thursday.

“We keep waiting for him to lose a puck battle or get pushed off the puck and we haven’t seen it yet.

“From here on in the games are going to get more intense, but we didn’t expect him to be this good, this quick.”

Wednesday in Philadelphia, his third game in as many nights, Gardiner was on the ice for 22 minutes and 22 seconds.

He may still be a long-shot for opening night, but if his strong play continues, it will be tough to keep him on the farm all season.

“He has adjusted really quickly to the game and ... has quickly grasped the pace,” Nonis said.


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