Adam Tambellini, having committed to the longer but sometimes surer path to the NHL, is eager to see what he can do against stiffer competition.
Like his older brother Jeff Tambellini, who skated in 242 NHL games and now plays in Switzerland, the 6-foot-2¼, 169-pound centre opted to develop through the British Columbia Hockey League and U.S. college hockey. There were times this season when Adam Tambellini was simply able to outclass Junior A defenders with his confluence of size, skill and speed; after moving from the Vernon Vipers to the Surrey Eagles in a midseason trade, he averaged a point per game in the playoffs during Surrey's run to to the BCHL title. The lanky pivot knows he has a lot of gaps to fill in his game.
"Doing the college route gives me a little bit of time to develop," says Tambellini, whose father Steve Tambellini, also a former NHLer, was general manager of the Edmonton Oilers until being replaced in April. "The coach at North Dakota [Dave Hakstol] will be great for me. So hopefully I will go down there and learn a complete game and grow out my frame a little more.
"It really builds your defensive awareness," adds Tambellini, who joked during the NHL combine that the only competition he was likely to win might be for having the lowest body-fat percentage. "You're battling 23-, 24-year-old guys in that league and it's a big leap from Junior A. You get a little more pressure to compete every game when you have only two games a week. That also gives you a little more time to be in the weight room."
Tambellini, who was 42nd among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's ranking, will likely be the first BCHLer chosen in the June 30 draft. While he's hesitant to characterize himself primarily as a goal scorer, he had 36 goals and 65 games across 52 games for the Vipers and Eagles. He also managed to match his big brother's feat of winning a BCHL title. Jeff Tambellini, who is 10 years older, helped the Chilliwack Chiefs take league honours during his draft year in 2002.
"I went on a fairly good run with the Surrey Eagles," Adam Tambellini says. "It was a long season and I played in some big games, so it was good to get that under my belt. I was really happy to win the BCHL title. That was something I had wanted for a long time."
1. Which NHL player(s) do you study because their style of play is close to what you aspire to do at that level someday?
"I try to watch [Pittsburgh Penguins star] Evgeni Malkin as much as possible. He's an unbelievable skilled player and a taller guy. If I can ever bring pieces of his game to my game, that would be ideal."
2. How are you dissimilar from your older brother, as a player?
"Me and him are quite different. I have a little bit of height on him — don't mention that to him — he's an extremely fast player, got a wicked shot. We play different sides of the ice, he's definitely someone who's explosive."
3. What advice did your brother, and your father as a NHL executive, give you about going to the NHL combine? (Tambellini interviewed with 21 of the 30 teams.)
"They just said have fun with it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Just have fun with it. There were a few people I talked with who they're buddies with, so that helped."
4. Any off-the-wall questions during your interviews at the NHL scouting combine?
"One team asked me what my favourite animal was. I guess I didn't give them the right answer... they were expecting the name of the team."
5. Where was your favourite road rink in the BCHL?
"I always liked Trail. It's where my family's from. I always had a lot of people in the stands when I'd go there."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.