University coach 'so happy' for Gardiner

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:10 PM ET

TORONTO - Mike Eaves never doubted that Jake Gardiner would one day play in the NHL.

But so soon?

“I have to admit I was a bit surprised when I heard he had made the Leafs,” Eaves, Gardiner’s coach at the University of Wisconsin, said in a phone interview on Monday from Madison, Wisc.

Why was Eaves caught off-guard by the news?

“It was something that Jake said over the summer,” Eaves said. “He said playing some AHL games last season really showed him the difference between playing against kids in college and playing against men (with the Marlies).

“He said it showed him that he really needed to work on his strength if he wanted to play in the NHL. I don’t think even he figured it would happen this quickly.

“I’m so happy for him.”

Eaves raved about Gardiner’s natural skating ability.

“We used to kid him because he would skate to our blue line and, if he didn’t see a play open that he liked, he’d circle back behind our net, sometimes more than once.

“At one point, we finally told him: “Hey, you have to deliver the meat to the butcher.” In other words, there does come a time where you have to get the puck to the forwards.”


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