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Evan Gardner – 2024 NHL Draft Prospect Profile – Hockey Writers – NHL Draft Entry

Evan Gardner

2023-24 Team: Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Date of Birth: Jan. 25, 2006
Place of birth: Fort St. John, BC
Ht: 6-foot-2 Wt: 174 pounds
Catch: Left
Position: Goal
NHL Draft Eligibility: Eligibility for the first year of 2024


When Evan Gardner began the 2023-24 season, he was expected to be a solid backup to Saskatoon Blades starter Austin Elliott, who finished his first full season in the Western Hockey League (WHL) with a .911 save percentage (SV% ) in starts 37. However, that didn’t last long, as 18-year-old Gardner soon stole the limelight. While Elliott struggled with consistency, Gardner was one of the most reliable backups in the league; from September to mid-November, he made just nine appearances in net but recorded a .918 SV%. Over the same frame, Elliott had 17 plate appearances and a .907 SV%. By December, the two goaltenders were starting to share, and the younger Gardner was outperforming his teammate night in and night out.

Gardner’s performance began to attract a lot of attention. Head coach Brennan Sonne was quoted as saying, “When a player has 13, 14, 15 games in a row where their save percentage is over .900, it’s really hard to ignore that. It’s hard to ignore his goals against chance against average, which was very high – some of the highest numbers I’ve ever seen. ” As for the NHL Draft, he went from a late-round pick to the seventh-best goaltender in North America, surpassing Team Canada standouts Ryerson Leenders and Samuel St-Hilaire. In the playoffs, Gardner eventually took over as the Blades’ first-rounder and led the team to the Eastern Conference. Conference Final, where they fell to the dominant Moose Jaw Warriors in seven games.

Evan Gardner Saskatoon Blades
Evan Gardner, Saskatoon Blades (Photo Credit: Rick Elvin)

But Gardner isn’t the only beneficiary of a strong team in front of him. He moves a lot in the crease, making quick adjustments to put himself in the best position to stop the puck. He bounces between the posts but is always in position to make a snappy pad save. As a relatively small goalkeeper, he relies heavily on his high-level awareness and intelligence, cutting off angles with his positioning and net placement rather than challenging the shooter by floating beyond the blue paint.

There are times when Gardner suffers from trying to adjust too much – a common problem for young bakers – and more experience and confidence will solve that. His early tracking is good, he locks into position to set up the oncoming shooter, and he’s often conservative with the first shot, but his rebound control needs some work. It’s like he’s too trapped in his first position and is struggling to recover to save the second. Again, this is likely a result of playing most of the season in a backup role, and with more games under his belt, those issues won’t be as prominent.

Related: THW 2024 NHL Draft Guide

Next season promises to be a big one for Gardner, as the Blades will lose several key members of their regular season squad. But, as the team’s unheralded starter, he’ll have every opportunity to turn his high-end skills around and could lead Saskatoon back to another deep playoff run.

Some Profiles Are Under Construction

Evan Gardner – NHL Draft Projection

At 6-foot-2, Gardner lacks the size most NHL teams want in a starting goaltender, which will have an impact on his eventual selection. He will likely be drafted behind 6-foot-6 Marcus Gidlöf, 6-foot-5 Mikhail Yegorov, and 6-foot-4 Kim Saarinen, despite having comparable or better stats and athleticism. But his ability to come in and stabilize a scrambling Blades crease will put him on a few radars on day two. Initially, he will be a third rounder and should not go lower than fifth.


“Gardner is calm between the pipes, moves the right way, can take over space in the blink of an eye and never looks uncomfortable, especially at goalie in his first WHL season…He plays beyond his years with situational awareness and command of the blue paint. He positions himself wisely and uses his great build on the butterfly. He’s hard to beat up close or far. Tracks the puck well when it moves in the end zone. He rarely gets hit on the shoulder while clearing the top half of the net correctly. He uses the overlapping technique, there are many goals he has scored to prevent a shot on the short side or while hugging the post.” – Dylan Robillard, Flyers Nitty Gritty

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“Evan Gardner, the Saskatoon Blades goaltender, displays a shallow stance, rarely drifting outside the crease. Standing at 6-foot-2, Gardner approaches shots effectively, using his good lateral movement to directly face them. However, he struggles to control the rebound, especially without his glove, which often results in more scoring opportunities for his opponents. Although he uses the Reverse-VH (RVH) technique to protect the post, Gardner uses it consistently against rush plays, which leads to vulnerability, especially with dangerous five-hole shots. Additionally, his difficulty trapping pucks with his glove contributes to his rebound control issues. Despite these challenges, Gardner’s athleticism and lateral agility remain key strengths in his goal-setting game.” – Josh Tessler, SMAHT Scouting

“Gardner was great in Saskatoon as a WHL rookie coming out of midget hockey. He put up big numbers despite not being in an official starting role. Gardner is a very smart goalkeeper. He is very efficient, calm and reaches a ton of pucks. Anticipates the opponent’s moves and passes very well. He’s quick enough to make solid saves, although he doesn’t have the half-cut that you’d like to see in a young goalkeeper.” – Corey Pronman, The Athletic (from ‘NHL Draft 2024 rankings: Macklin Celebrini leads Corey Pronman’s top 129 prospects,’ Athletic – 28/05/2024)


  • Technical sound; it does not move from the position
  • Strong lateral movement, good puck tracking
  • The upright posture while in the butterfly closes the net well

Under Construction – Improvements To Be Made

  • The blocker’s weak side
  • Controlling rebinding and making secondary savings
  • It can greatly adjust the net

NHL Power

It’s not unreasonable to think that Gardner could be an NHL starter in the future. He may not have the ideal size, but he is by no means small and showed great skill and athleticism during his WHL rookie season. One area that could hold him back is that, after making a solid initial save, he’ll be forced to make an acrobatic recovery to pick up a loose rebound. That could be attributed to just immaturity, lack of awareness, or a bit of both. He’s a very risky pick, but with so many promising abilities, he’s worth a mid-to-late pick.

Risk – Reward Analysis

Risk- 4/5, Reward 4/5


  • 2023-24 – WHL Rookie of the Year, East Division
  • 2023-24 – WHL Humanitarian of the Year, East Division
  • 2023-24 – WHL Top Save Percentage
  • 2023-24 – Low WHL goals against average
  • WHL Goalkeeper of the Month, March 2024


Statistics by Evan Gardner


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