(LaSALLE, ON) – The LaSalle Vipers have committed to 16 year-old centre Nolan Gardiner, head coach and general manager Bill Bowler announced Thursday. The 6′ 1″, 185 lb native of Tilbury played for the Wheatley Sharks of the Great Lakes Jr C Hockey League a season ago. Gardiner is a team player who brings versatility and grit to the Vipers line-up.
The 1998-born pivot posted three goals and 12 points in 39 regular season games, last season.
“Nolan’s competitive nature made it an easy decision,” Bowler said. “He was on an excellent (Chatham-Kent Cyclones) minor midget team and competed against the best players in the province. We expect Nolan to be a contributor immediately. He should excel at the B level.”
Gardiner, a 2014 draft pick of the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, augments defenseman Brett Banwell as the newest members of the LaSalle Vipers, joining a group that went all the way to the Sutherland Cup Final last season.
“I think playing a year of Jr C will really help,” Gardiner said. “I learned a lot from the veterans (in Wheatley), and from playing against bigger bodies.”
The Tilbury native is no stranger to the big stage and exceeding expectations.
“His minor midget team went to the OHL Cup, he made a Jr C team as an underage player, and we’re hoping to get him to the Ontario Hockey League,” Bowler said. “We want young people who have ambition to further their hockey career. Nolan is the type of player that is striving to be better and we’re hoping we can help him get there.”
As for what fans can expect from Gardiner, Bowler says he has versatility and willingness to embrace the organization’s never-quit mentality, which will serve him well.
“He’s strong in the faceoff circle and he can also play wing,” said Bowler. “We don’t put a limit or a role on players. He will determine his role on our team. He can contribute and find a way to be impactful in hockey games.”
In his own words, Gardiner is an agitator who likes to get under his opponent’s skin.
“I’m a gritty player. I finish all my hits and I drive the net hard,” said Gardiner. “Billy is a great coach who has had a lot of success. I’m going to listen to whatever he has to say, be a team player, and do whatever it takes to help the team.”