The University of Minnesota announced today that sophomore-to-be forward Max Gardiner has left school to play junior hockey next year. Gardiner's most likely destinations would be the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL, after Dubuque took him in the USHL Draft this past Monday, or playing for the Tri-City Americans in the WHL.
Gardiner struggled in his only season of college hockey after coming to Minnesota straight from Minnesota high school hockey and was woefully under-prepared for the rigors of college hockey. He was a late addition to the team after forward Josh Birkholz left the team over the summer while facing a suspension.
Gardiner's struggles highlight just how hard it can be for an 18-year-old coming directly from high school hockey. Some people in the hockey world aren't necessarily thrilled that a year of two of junior hockey is almost becoming mandatory for players that want to play Division I college hockey, but it seems as if that is becoming a necessity.