2009-10: Max Gardiner played for Minnetonka (MN) High School. In 23 games for the Skippers, Gardiner scored 22 goals and added 32 assists for 54 points on the season. He registered a +35 rating for the season. Gardiner was a finalist for the Mr. Hockey Award given to Minnesota's top high school hockey player. Brother of Anaheim Ducks prospect, Jake Gardiner.
2010-11: Gardiner made the jump directly from Minnesota HS hockey to the NCAA, appearing in 17 games for the University of Minnesota as an 18-year-old freshman. He scored 1 goal with 2 assists and was -3 with 24 PMs for the Gophers. Minnesota finished a disappointing fifth in the WCHA and missed the NCAA tournament after falling to Alaska-Anchorage in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
2011-12: Gardiner returned to junior hockey after seeing limited time at the University of Minnesota as a freshman – skating for the USHL's Dubuque Fighting Saints. He scored 12 goals with 14 assists in 50 games and was minus-seven with 29 penalty minutes. The Fighting Saints finished third in the East Division and reached the second round of the playoffs. Gardiner was minus-three in five playoff games with 1 goal and 3 assists. He committed to playing college hockey at Penn State in 2012-13.
2012-13: Gardiner returned to college hockey – playing 23 games for Penn State as a sophomore. He scored 3 goals with 19 assists and was +5 with 22 penalty minutes. Playing an independent schedule that included a mix of NCAA and ACHA club programs, Penn State finished 13-14-0, capping its season winning 9 of its last 11 games — highlighted by an overtime win at Wisconsin in its final game. The Nittany Lions will be part of the new Big Ten conference in 2013-14.
Gardiner has offensive skill combined with a good compete level. He is more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer. It remains to be seen if his offensive game will advance at the pro level, but he has some potential as a power forward if he improves his overall strength.
Gardiner showed off his playmaking skills at the NCAA level in 2012-13. He had an impressive 22 points (three goals, 19 assists) in 27 games. If he continues to develop his two-way game and offensive abilities, Gardiner could be ready for an NHL tryout in the near future. For now, he will remain with the Penn State Nittany Lions at the NCAA level.