Rangers pick Adam Tambellini is Calgary bound (Getty Images)New York Rangers prospect Adam Tambellini's college career was short, but not so sweet. Just 16 games into his rookie season at the University of North Dakota, he decided to take off to join the Calgary Hitmen.
The Hitmen, however, didn't originally own his WHL rights. They traded their 2014 first-round bantam pick to the Portland Winterhawks for them. Obviously, Tambellini must have made it known to the Hitmen before the trade that he would join them as they wouldn't have given up their prized pick unless it was a sure thing.
This is the second big trade Calgary has pulled off within the last little while as they snagged Dallas Stars second-round pick Mike Winther from the Prince Albert Raiders on Dec. 28. The pair of trades ultimately solidify the first-place Hitmen as the favourites to come out of the Eastern Conference.
“We are very excited to add a top forward to our group,” said Hitmen General Manager and Vice President, Business Operations Mike Moore in the release on Steve Tambellini's son. “Adam possesses size, skating and a scoring touch that will add terrific depth to our lineup. It is not easy to give up a first round draft pick, however when you acquire a talent like Adam we felt the price was warranted.”
From the Winterhawks' standpoint, it seems odd that they would want the draft pick over Tambellini because they are clearly making a push to win back-to-back championships. Therefore, it appears the Edmonton native likely told the team he wouldn't leave UND for them, but the Hitmen would be a different story. Taking into the account Portland is usually the team that recruits players that other clubs can't, Seth Jones for example, it's unusual to see them get the short end of the stick, if this is indeed what happened.
Nonetheless, Portland can undoubtedly use the draft choice. They were gutted by the league – losing four first-round picks - in November of 2012 for violating player-benefit regulations. Not to mention, they recently dealt three second-round picks to the Red Deer Rebels for Minnesota Wild prospect Matt Dumba. But it seems more likely that they will deal the pick before the trade deadline rather than hold onto it.
Tambellini, 19, wasn't expected to leave UND for the Dub, let alone this quickly. In an interview with BTN in the summer, Winterhawks GM-head coach Mike Johnston said he 'expects Tambellini to play three full seasons with North Dakota.' It seems the 6-foot-3, 168-pound forward's tough start, where he only scored two goals and four points in 16 contests, played a major role in his decision to take off. In addition, it's worth noting that Tambellini is close friends with Hitmen forward Greg Chase.
Tambellini is the second highly-regarded recruit that UND lost to the WHL this year. Top 2015 NHL draft prospect Ryan Gropp, who was poised to join them in 2014-15, backed out of his commitment in November to join the Seattle Thunderbids.
Other trade notes
Even though the WHL trade deadline isn't until Friday (Jan. 10), there was a handful of other moves today.
The Kelowna Rockets, who sit in first spot in the WHL with a 33-4-0-2 record, snagged Detroit Red Wings prospect Marek Tvrdon from the Vancouver Giants for a 2014 second-round bantam pick. Tvrdon, 20, spent the first half of the season with the Red Wings' ECHL affiliate, the Toledo Walleye. The Slovakian native will join fellow Red Wings prospect Mitchell Wheaton with the Rockets effective immediately. Since Tvrdon put Kelowna over the overage limit with four, they sent 20-year-old Zach Franko to the Kootenay Ice for a 2014 sixth-round bantam pick and a 2016 third-round bantam pick.
Taking into account the Rockets ultimately dealt Franko and a second-round pick for Tvrdon, a third-round pick and a sixth-round pick, it was a smart move on their part. Based on what Tvrdon did in 2011-12 - scoring 31 goals and 74 points in 60 games – he clearly has the potential to bring a lot more to the table than Franko.
Nevertheless, the biggest winner in this domino effect might be the Ice. They acquired a top-notch 20-year-old forward in Franko, who has potted 12 goals and 35 points in 39 games this year, for practically a pair of magic beans. The Winnipeg native along with top NHL prospect Sam Reinhart, Montreal Canadiens prospect Tim Bozon, whom the Ice acquired from the Blazers in October, and sniper Jaedon Descheneau gives Kootenay a solid offensive quartet.
The Saskatoon Blades and Prince Albert Raiders made their second deal within a week's time. The Blades dealt team captain Graeme Craig, a seventh-round bantam pick in 2014 and a fifth-round bantam pick in 2016 to the Raiders for MacKenzie Johnston, Tyler Dea, and third and fifth-round bantam picks in 2015. This is ultimately a 20-year-old shutdown defenceman upgrade for the Raiders as Craig has a leg up on Johnston. The Blades, meanwhile, add some draft picks to their arsenal and 18-year-old Dea has the potential to develop into an impact player for them.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen