Rangers choose center Adam Tambellini with their first pick
NEWARK - With no picks until the third round of the NHL draft, veteran amateur talent evaluator Gordie Clark was losing his patience.
"I had just never sat there and watched so much talent just walk through the tables to the podium," the Rangers' director of player personnel said.
When the time came, with the 65th and 75th picks, "we wanted to take a chance," he said. Referring to center Adam Tambellini and Russian winger Pavel Buchnevich, he said, "We got some speed and skill."
Tambellini, 18, is a lanky pivot from the British Columbia Hockey League, which produced Ottawa's Kyle Turris. He is the son of Steve Tambellini, who was chosen 15th overall by the Islanders in 1978 and played two years on Long Island, including the Stanley Cup season of 1979-80. Adam's brother Jeff also played for the Isles.
The youngest Tambellini is 6-2, 170 pounds and has committed to the University of North Dakota. He notched 36 goals and 30 assists in 52 BCHL games and was ranked 42nd among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
"Tambellini's a good skater," Clark said, "and Buchnevich reminds me of [Alexei] Cherepanov." That's high praise. Cherepanov, who led the Russian juniors to medals in three world championship tournaments, was drafted 17th overall by the Rangers in 2007 but died at 19 after collapsing on the bench during a KHL regular-season game.
In Tambellini's case, bloodlines make a difference. "There's no question," said Clark, who in 2009 drafted Ryan Bourque, son of Bruins defenseman Ray. "I think a lot of Steve Tambellini. I remember watching his other son. He was shorter and faster, this one taller and more of a playmaker. Both of them have Steve's shot. They have NHL shots. He needs to put a little weight on and he'll have time to do that at North Dakota.
"It's kind of like [Carl] Hagelin. We projected he might be there four years, and he came out all right. North Dakota's put a bunch of players in the NHL."
The Rangers spoke to Tambellini several times during the season, and the draft-day advice he got from his dad and brother was simple: "It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing. It's out of your control. Just sit back and have fun."
Tambellini just finished his second season in the BCHL, beginning with the Vernon Vipers and ending with the Surrey Eagles via a trade.
"He's very smart for his age," Vipers coach Jason Williamson told the Vancouver Province, "and any time he gets the puck on the offensive side of the red line, he's very dangerous. His shot, his release are at an NHL level already, so once he packs on a few more pounds, it's going to be quite scary."
Asked to describe his assets, Tambellini said he's an offensive center. "I shoot the puck as much as possible,'' he said, "[but] I have to get stronger . . . North Dakota produces some pretty good players, so I'd like to join the list. I don't have a specific timetable."