The Vancouver Canucks added some size in the fourth round of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
With the 112th pick of the draft, the Canucks selected Daimon Gardner, a 6’4” centre who played in the Minnesota High School circuit last season.
Gardner doesn’t just have enviable size, however, as he combines it with some serious skill. He racked up 45 goals and 83 points in just 30 games with Warroad High last season, making him one of the top scorers in Minnesota.
Elite Prospects rated him the highest heading into the draft, landing him at 54th overall, as they love his intelligent game and how he’s constantly looking to get to dangerous areas on the ice.
“Always inside-focused, Gardner’s sense prevails across his shifts,” reads his scouting report from Elite Prospects. “He drives middle lanes, exploits his frame advantages to protect against defenders, and has handling, shooting, and passing skills that all blend into a relatively sophisticated offensive package.”
His size and willingness to use it supports his offensive game, as he is willing to grind down low and battle in front of the net.
“He is frankly a monster on the walls,” said Elite Prospects’ Daniel Gee in an April scouting report. “Off-puck, Gardner is a constant rotator, who jumps in willingly to help win battles or bully net front defenders to create screens.”
Gardner also has a well-developed two-way game according to scouting reports, as he supports his defencemen down low as a centre should, attacks loose pucks with his powerful stride, and wins battles for the puck and looks to quickly turn those won battles into transition opportunities.
“Even defensively, Gardner pushed high-end sequences,” said Gee. “He angled off numerous entries with his back pressure, working in tandem with defenders to kill rushes. Gardner will rotate, skate backwards, just to have a better body position to the oncoming attackers. Constant pick-pocket threat.”
This all sounds fantastic, so why was Gardner available to the Canucks in the fourth round?
One reason is that high school hockey can be hard to assess. Gardner dominated at that level but was quieter in 14 USHL games, putting up just 4 points. That drop in production likely made NHL teams nervous.
In addition, Gardner has some issues with his skating. While he has a lot of power and a long stride, his skating technique needs a lot of refinement before it’s an NHL-caliber skill.
“Not the greatest skater,” reads a scouting report from Draft Pro Hockey. “Looks choppy on his skates…tends to slow down with the puck on his stick.”
That said, Gardner is already confident on his crossovers and inside edges and has decent straight-line speed. If Gardner can smooth out some of the rough edges of his skating, there could be a really compelling player.
A big bonus for the Canucks is that Gardner is on his way to their own backyard. He’ll be playing next season in the BCHL with the Chilliwack Chiefs, which will give the Canucks lots of opportunities to keep a close eye on his development.