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 plus-35 rating for the season. Gardiner was a finalist for the Mr. Hockey Award given to Minnesota’s top high school hockey player. His brother is defensemen Jake Gardiner of the Maple Leafs.
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 minus-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-7 with 29 penalty minutes. The Fighting Saints finished third in the East Division and reached the second round of the playoffs. Gardiner was minus-3 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 plus-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.
2013-14: Gardiner skated in 22 games for Penn State in his junior season — missing the final eight games due to injury. He had 1 assist and was minus-12 with 8 penalties. Penn State, playing in its second season of varsity hockey, finished last in the inaugural season of the six-team Big Ten Hockey Conference. The Nittany Lions defeated Michigan 2-1 in double overtime in a conference quarterfinal game before falling to Wisconsin, 2-1, in the Big Ten semifinals.
Gardiner was an offensively skilled high school player in Minnesota but has been more of a two-way, checking line forward at the college level. He has some potential as a power forward but doesnt play an overly abrasive game and is more likely to be a defensive, lower line forward at the pro level.
Gardiner is a senior for Penn State University in 2014-15. Once again playing in a lower line role for the Nittany Lions he showed some playmaking skills for the Nittany Lions when they were playing a mixed schedule of lower level Division I programs and club teams but hasn't had that same production playing against Big Ten competition. Like 2010 late round Blues' pick Maxwell Tardy, Gardiner was drafted directly from Minnesota high school hockey based on his size and long-term potential. Tardy was not signed to an NHL contract by the Blues and has begun his pro career at lower level minor league hockey. Gardiner's career path could be a similar one.