It’s a long way from Staten Island, New York to Bakersfield, California to Edmonton, but it’s a journey that feels worth it lately for left winger Joe Gambardella.
The 25-year-old made his NHL debut on New Year’s Eve against Winnipeg. Now into his second stint with the Oilers, he’s recorded an assist in three straight games.
“It’s a blast to be back up,” said Gambardella. “I’m just enjoying it every day that it lasts.”
In Tuesday’s 8-4 win over Los Angeles, Gambardella played most of the game on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Alex Chiasson. Late in the game, he got to skate with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, earning as assist on Draisaitl’s hat trick goal.
“I couldn’t think,” said Gambardella. “Every time I talk about it, I still get goosebumps. My family, my friends, my girlfriend are texting me asking what it was like. There are no words.”
Gambardella had been an offensive leader with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors, racking up 27 goals and 45 points in 48 games. He’s still a long way from being considered a full-time NHLer but at least he’s making people take notice.
“Joe’s gone up another level. If he continues to grow, he looks like a National Hockey League player,” said head coach Ken Hitchcock.
“I’m curious to see over the next six games how much he grows.”
“He works hard to get the puck,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “As soon as he gets it, he gets his eyes up. He’s always looking to make a play on the net or to somebody. I was really impressed by that.”
Gambardella’s parents and his two brothers have been following him from New York.
“I was very competitive growing up with them,” he chuckled when asked about his brothers. “They’re very proud of me.”
The Oilers will host the Dallas Stars Thursday night. Catch the action on 630 CHED with the Face-off Show at 5:30 p.m. The game starts at 7 p.m.