EDMONTON, AB - Oilers forward prospect Joe Gambardella joined the organization in the 2016-17 season as a college free agent signing. The UMass-Lowell alumnus showed his flair for offence at the 2017 Young Stars Classic in Penticton, BC, over the summer when he and Kailer Yamamoto developed their tandem. Gambardella, 22, is now learning the pro game in Bakersfield with the Condors alongside a young, developing group.
Video: MINORS MINUTE | Yamamoto Streaking
You've been out of the lineup recently due to injury but since your return, you've made an impact with a few game winners. What was it like being away and then making that immediate impact once you were healthy?
"It was a tough five weeks not playing and just recovering. You miss the guys, you miss the camaraderie around the team and feel like you're just missing out. But the guys really made me feel really welcome and still on the team even though I couldn't make the trips and stuff. It felt really awesome to get on the bus, get on the plane and hang out with the guys again. Be around everybody and have some fun while doing it. It feels really special to come back and have the same attitude as I did before."
The team played well coming back from the Christmas break, what do you attribute that to?
"We did a good job on the road there and we want to build off that. Now we're back home in front of our fans and we want to use the home ice as an advantage for us. Hopefully, we can build on that and get some wins here."
You've been injured this season but you're now healthy and making an impact with the club. Developmentally, how has your first full pro season gone?
"I'm loving being able to wake up every day and have this as my job. It's a dream come true and when I show up here at the rink every day, the guys are awesome and the coaching staff as well. They take their time after every practice to help you develop any kind of skills you want to work on. They might throw some tips at you as well just to be a helping hand but it's a dream come true to be able to wake up every day and do something you love."
What specifically are you looking to improve?
"Trying to work on a quicker release for my shot and different types of skating techniques. You can always improve in any aspect of the game and for me right now, I'm just trying to get a quicker release off and my skating can always get better."
Have you been playing more wing or centre this season?
The team obviously has some young players developing as well as some veterans who've seen plenty of time in the NHL. What's it like having that mix of youth and maturity?
"I think Grybes said it best when he said we're all basically kids. I think the only thing that really separates it is the veterans helping the younger core group along. Showing them the ropes, what's expected, what's not expected. What to do and any tips they can lend to help us adjust to the pro level a little easier. Other than that, we show up at the rink, have fun together and are one big happy family."