His Alberta Junior Hockey League career may be over, but his hockey career is just beginning.
Former Okotoks Oiler Rhett Gardner has a chance to be the fifth Okotoks Oiler drafted into the NHL, joining elite company with the likes of Brad Eidsness, Derek Rodwell, Corban Knight and Rhett Holland.
But, for the '96 born centre from Moose Jaw, he's got his sights set on the task at hand, being an effective contributor to the University of North Dakota this fall.
After being passed over in the 2014 draft, Gardner has a chance to re-enter as a 19 year old skater, but he says he'll be looking at this year's draft a lot differently.
Gardner says he'll take this weekend's events with a glass half full approach.
"I definitely thought about it a lot more, especially leading up to the draft," he says. "But, this year I tried to keep it out of my mind, I think I did a good job of that and it's funny how that works. I think I had a better year so honestly I haven't really thought about that much and whatever happens, happens."
Gardner says he knows that getting drafted is an uphill battle but with four years of NCAA hockey on the horizon, the chance to still play in "The Show" is a great possibility.
"Being from Saskatchewan, I look at a guy like Tyler Bozak who played a couple years at Denver, wasn't drafted among the ranks and now he's starting to have a nice little career," he says.
Gardner says he believes hard work pays off.
"It would be pretty special to get drafted, but it's up to you to do the work no matter what opportunity you have," he says.
Gardner played 106 games in an Oiler uniform spanning the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, racking up 37 goals and 54 assists in that time, along with appearing in two World Jr. A Challenges, one of those tournaments being Team Captain and was on the AJHL's All Rookie Team.
He's currently ranked 192 among North American Skaters heading into the 2015 NHL Draft.
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