Jake Gardiner isn’t quite done yet.
The 21-year-old defenceman has settled in with the Toronto Marlies as they finish their regular season with games in Abbotsford B.C. against the Heat, Friday and Sunday.
Leaf rookies Gardiner, Carter Ashton and Matt Frattin will contest their first pro playoff next week.
Mapleleafs.com writer Mike Ulmer caught up with Gardiner to get his view on his season with the Leafs and his upcoming playoff with the Marlies.
Mike Ulmer: You led all rookie defencemen with 30 points and were third in ice time for first-year defencemen. Now that you have had a few days to reflect, how did you think you did?
Jake Gardiner: I felt pretty good about my year but it was very disappointing not to make the playoffs. I’m just glad to have some hockey left. I want to help the Marlies win a championship.
Ulmer: You played 10 games with the Marlies last season. Did you feel like they left the light on for you?
Gardiner: There are some new players but between training camp and being here last season I feel like I pretty well know everyone.
Ulmer: Was there a time when you hit the wall? You played 75 games this season which is a lot when you consider you played 121 games over three years at Wisconsin. Ron Wilson had you in and out of the lineup a bit in early January.
Gardiner: Yes, I got a little tired at the midpoint of the season. Getting that break halfway helped. I felt fine the rest of the way.
Ulmer: Playoffs are intense no matter what the league…
Gardiner: I know. I was watching the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia series. It was crazy intense. It’s a whole different game in the playoffs.
Ulmer: Most players remember their first trade and the first time their coach got fired? You were traded for the first time last year but what was it like for you when the season went downhill and Ron Wilson was fired?
Gardiner: I tried not to let the losing get to me but it felt like there was a lot going on and sometimes it was tough to block out. You just had to decide you weren’t going to let it bother you. I liked playing for Ron but you learn quickly that you have to perform for whoever your coach is.
Ulmer: Erik Karlsson had 26 points, four less than you in his rookie season with the Senators. Your style has often been compared to his and he jumped to 46 points in his second season. Are you encouraged by the difference in his game after a year in the league?
Gardiner: I really like his game. To me he is one of the best defencemen in the league so if I could show the same kind of improvement between my first and second season that would be great.