It’s been a while since Jeff Tambellini appeared in an NHL game. He’s hoping to get another chance with the reigning Eastern Conference champions.
A second-generation player, Tambellini signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday after spending the last four seasons in Europe. He last saw action in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks in 2010-11, when he registered career highs of nine goals and 17 points in 62 games.
The son of former Stanley Cup champion Steve, Tambellini was on course for a successful run in the world’s top league. The left wing began his career in juniors by capturing Rookie of the Year honors in the Pacific International Junior Hockey League in 1999-2000 while with the Port Coquitlam Buckaroos.
He moved on to the Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League, where he claimed the scoring title in 2001-02. That proved to be quite the season for Tambellini, who also secured the Verne Dye Memorial Trophy as the Coastal Conference’s Most Valuable Player while helping the Chiefs win the Fred Page Cup as league champions and the Doyle Cup as the Pacific regional champs.
Tambellini then took his talents to the NCAA, joining Michigan of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. He continued his superb play with the Wolverines, taking home the CCHA Rookie of the Year award in 2002-03 after registering 45 points in 43 games and helping the club to the Mason Cup as league champion twice in a three-year span (2003-05).
His freshman season at Michigan drew the attention of the Los Angeles Kings, who selected him with the 27th overall pick in the 2003 draft.
Tambellini made his NHL debut with the Kings in 2005-06, appearing in four games, before being traded along with defenseman Denis Grebeshkov to the New York Islanders for Mark Parrish and blue-liner Brent Sopel.
The native of Calgary spent parts of the next five seasons with the Islanders, playing in a career-high 65 games in 2008-09. He collected seven goals and eight assists that campaign while posting a horrendous minus-20 rating.
Tambellini went from one of his father’s former teams to another when he inked a two-way contract with Vancouver in July 2010. He appeared in six playoff contests for the Canucks in 2011, failing to record a point as the team went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Boston Bruins in seven games.
A member of Canada’s silver medal-winning team at the 2004 IIHF World Junior Championships, Tambellini elected to ply his trade in Europe after his season in Vancouver. He spent two campaigns in Switzerland, winning the league championship with the ZSC Lions in his second season, before joining Modo of the Swedish League for 2013-14.
Tambellini split last season between the two countries, totaling 11 goals and as many assists in 50 combined games with Fribourg-Gotteron of the Swiss-A League and Vaxjo of the Swedish League. While unlikely to reach double digits in goals for the first time in his big-league career next season, the 31-year-old is just hoping to crack Tampa Bay’s lineup and skate in NHL arenas again.