That’s because the option to return for another year of junior hockey in Calgary with the Western Hockey League’s Hitmen isn’t an option. Come mid-September, Tambellini will be a professional hockey player, whether it be with the Rangers, Hartford in the American Hockey League, or Greenville in the ECHL.
“It’s a totally new experience for myself,” Tambellini told BlueshirtsUnited.com in a phone interview in August. “I’ve been to the camp last year, but coming in this year not being able to go back to junior [changes your mindset].
“This is what you dream for as a kid, going to an NHL camp trying to push for a spot.”
On an individual level, Tambellini could not have asked for a more successful swan song to his junior career with Calgary. The 20-year-old posted 47 goals and 39 assists for 86 points in just 71 games. His 47 goals were fourth-best in the WHL, while the 86 points were 10th.
The success continued in the postseason where Tambellini notched 13 goals — which tied for the most in the League — and 13 assists for 26 points in 16 games.
“Really well,” Tambellini said when asked how he felt about his game following such a successful 2014-15 campaign. “After that season, we had a great run going really far in the playoffs and getting to play with some really skilled players. It was great for me. It gave me a lot of confidence with my game.”
The Port Moody, B.C.-native said he’s hoping that strong play can carry over this year, his first season as a pro. But Tambellini knows there will be a learning curve from the junior ranks to whatever awaits him in October.
“It’s a big jump from junior to the pro level, but if I can take little things from junior into pro, that would be really helpful,” Tambellini said, adding that he knows he’ll be facing older, bigger players in the pro ranks.
Tambellini has always been an offense-first player, which is what appealed to Gordie Clark, Rangers Director of Player Personnel, to select ‘Tambo’ in the third-round of the 2013 NHL Draft.
“I would certainly say that with the numbers Adam put up [in Calgary] and what we drafted him for, it was going to be the offense that he brings to the game,” Clark said.
With that said, Clark added that they’ve expressed the need for Tambellini to develop a 200-foot game, and thus far, “he’s been working on that and doing a great job with it.”
Tambellini agreed that defense was an area of his game he had to — and has — worked on in the two years since his name was called at the draft in Newark.
“This year I really wanted to focus on becoming more of a 200-foot centerman,” Tambellini said. “Going into pro, that’s huge for me. If you can get that under your belt early, it makes the transition a bit easier.”
The other goal Clark said he’d like to see Tambellini achieve is adding size and strength to his still-growing frame. Clark said a hip injury Tambellini suffered prior to being drafted set him back in terms of body development, but that he expects this summer will allow Tambellini to “catch him up to at least starting to get the strength that he’s going to need” to compete.
Tambellini said adding muscle is a goal of his this summer. He said he doesn’t think he’ll add a lot of weight, but that he’ll focus on upper and lower-body strength.
“Getting stronger is definitely a key for me for what I’ve been doing this summer,” Tambellini said, adding that he’s been skating since about a week after last season ended.
In about a week’s time, Tambellini will once again put on the Rangers’ sweater at the Traverse City prospect tournament, a precursor to training camp the following week.
“Going into last year, I didn’t really know what to expect, it being my first year,” Tambellini said of the tournament. “It’s a really good tournament with a lot of good players. Hopefully [we’ll] be competitive. It’s a quick turnaround with new teammates. Hopefully just play my game well.”
With the next chapter of his hockey career about to begin, Tambellini is fortunate that he has a strong and experienced support system in place. His father, Steve, has been a front office executive with several organizations, while his brother, Jeff, is a former NHLer with more than 200 games under his belt.
“They told me lots throughout the years,” Tambellini said of the advice he’s been given. “They’ve been great for me to lean on with questions or pointers or tips or anything like that. They’re mostly just telling me to go in there with an open mind and try and push for an open spot.
“You never know,” Tambellini added. “Go in with a lot of confidence and play the game that got you there.”