It's astonishing the name Reid Gardiner hasn't shown up more prominently on the various ranking services for the June NHL draft.
The 17-year-old from Humboldt, taken eighth overall by the Raiders in the 2011 Bantam draft, is off to a great start to this WHL season and it really comes as no surprise.
Many observers at Raider training camp expressed high hopes for Gardiner with many predictions of a break out season for the second-year right winger.
And he has delivered. Tuesday's tying goal in the dying seconds in Edmonton was Reid's sixth of the season, leaving him just one shy of last year's total as a 16-year-old rookie.
Gardiner has stepped up with injuries to Dakota Conroy and Mike Winther and has been a seamless fit on the Raiders top line along side Leon Draisaitl.
In addition to becoming permanent fixture on both specialty teams, which includes a shorthanded goal, Gardiner is a relentless worker in all three zones and his stocky close to the ice build makes him hard to move off the boards or the front of the net.
Reid told me being left off Canada's Under-18 team this past summer was a major motivator and if Gardiner continues to produce there is no doubt his stock will rise among scouts with Hockey Canada and the NHL.
Meanwhile, highlights of the four game in five night road trip through the Central division in addition to the lights going out in Edmonton, include a solid performance by 16-year-old rookie goalie Nick McBride in his first WHL start.
He looked confident posting 30 saves on 31 shots Sunday night in Kootenay.
You could argue the Raiders deserved to bring home more than three points, all of which they earned with last second comebacks in Red Deer and Edmonton. Also consider the Raiders were playing against more rested teams while grinding through the first three games in three nights.
Much of the sub-500 trip can be explained by the fact opposing goalies were first stars in two of the losses and third star in the other. Mind you Raider goalie Cole Cheveldave was the best player on the ice Tuesday night in Edmonton with 37 saves through 65 minutes of action and another three in the shootout (two plus a goal post to be exact) to preserve the victory.
There is also every reason to believe the extra ice time logged by the youngsters due to the Raiders injury woes will pay dividends in the long run. However, Mike Winther turned in a strong performance against the Oil Kings in his return from a lower body injury.
The Raiders are home for four of the next five games including this Sunday's rare 3 p.m. date against the Moose Jaw Warriors.
On Twitter: @RaidersVoice
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