Former Kelowna Rockets forward Reid Gardiner is returning next season to the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. -Image: Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)

Gardiner signs with AHL’s Penguins

21-year-old ex-Rockets forward is headed back to Pennsylvania to resume his pro career

In January, Reid Gardiner was playing with the American Hockey League’s Wilkes-Barre/Scraton Penguins when he was summoned to the Western Hockey League by the Kelowna Rockets.

After an impressive half season in Kelowna to close out his junior career, the sharpshooting forward is headed back to Pennsylvania to resume his pro career.

The Penguins this week announced the signing of Gardiner to an AHL contract for the 2017-18 season.

Gardiner, whose rights the Rockets acquired from the Prince Albert Raiders prior to the WHL’s trade deadline, looks forward to his return to the pro ranks.

“I’m excited for this next step and to be able to play in the AHL again,” said Gardiner, a native of Humboldt, Sask. “I feel like I’m ready to play pro hockey again and especially with it being in Wilkes-Barre. I’m very excited for what’s to come.”

Gardiner’s time in Kelowna may have been brief but his impact with the Rockets was considerable. In 28 regular season games, he had 18 goals and 37 points. In the playoffs, Gardiner raised his game to another level with a club record 15 goals align with 13 assists in just 17 games to finish third in WHL postseason scoring.

Despite the Rockets being eliminated in the Western Conference final, Gardiner valued every minute of his time with the Rockets.

“Kelowna prepared me a lot,” said Gardiner. “Learning from new coaches and new guys, being able to play deep into the playoffs, and just soaking everything in,” said Gardiner. “Seeing how Kelowna operated was very cool, and it was cool to be a part of. I feel like I improved greatly from my time in Kelowna and they’ve helped me take this next step.”