Toronto Maple Leafs: Why Their Next Breakout Star Will Be Jake Gardiner

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Toronto Maple Leafs: Why Their Next Breakout Star Will Be Jake Gardiner
Dale MacMillan/Getty Images

After years of anointing Nazem Kadri as the next great Leafs player, Leafs Nation has collectively turned its attention to their smooth-skating, budding defensive star, Jake Gardiner.

That's not to say Kadri won't develop into a good player; however, with the ascension of Jake Gardiner (who was named to the NHL's all-rookie team last season), fans have become enamored with their offensive wunderkind on the blue line.

After a solid rookie campaign in which Gardiner led all rookie defensemen in points, expectations will be higher for the second-year rearguard as he attempts to avoid the dreaded "sophomore slump."

Gardiner is a key cog on the power play and an astute player that can create opportunities by jumping into the rush—as such, he will be counted on to provide scoring punch from the back-end again in 2012-13.

As Gardiner's development continues and he irons out the wrinkles in his game, his ascension to stardom will be accelerated. As a surprising revelation during training camp who played his way into a top-four role, it is clear Gardiner has only scratched the surface of his potential.

Potential which will be realized, due to the following five reasons.

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