Jets Get a Potential Draft Gem In Brad Lambert

The Winnipeg Jets drafted Brad Lambert with the 30th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, and at that moment may have won the weekend.

“I’ll tell ya, the World Juniors when we started, I saw him play two games before it was cancelled. He was the best player there.” – Mark Hiller, Winnipeg Jets director of amateur scouting said upon reflection following the draft.

Lambert admitted that he had a poor year playing in the Finnish Liiga (from ‘Brad Lambert Q & A: No. 30 Talks his speed, what’s next, Lahti and more’, The Athletic, 25/06/2022). If you look solely at the results and stats you know why he dropped that far down every team’s draft boards. However, he is an elite skater whose speed and agility are going to shine as he develops into a professional hockey player.

Brad Lambert Winnipeg Jets
Brad Lambert, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Lambert is a 6-foot Finnish-Canadian, with citizenship in both countries, who could be a fan favourite in a few years. His speed and quickness with the puck are what make him stand out from most of his peers, and his ability to create offensive opportunities whether playing at centre or on the wing is elite.

Lambert’s Stock Fell This Season

Playing in the Finnish Liiga as a 16-year-old, Lambert had an impressive season in the best men’s league in the country scoring seven goals and eight assists in 46 games. He was immediately vaulted to a top-five selection and listed as a future top-line NHL player.

Related Article: Team Finland Players to Watch at 2022 WJC

This past season, after choosing to go back to the Liiga instead of joining the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League (WHL), he had a disappointing season offensively, scoring only four goals and six assists in 49 games split between two teams. This saw his draft stock plummet from top-five in September, then to top-15 in January, and finally projected as a late-first or early second-round selection by draft day.

Lambert was in a difficult position as a young player in a men’s league on a weak team with unknown expectations.

“One of the biggest problems for Lambert this season has been that his role consistently changes throughout a game. He may start the game in the top-six, but would often be relegated to bottom-six duty after the first period. With the expectation that he needed to make an immediate impact, he was often unable to get comfortable with linemates to create chemistry. While this is partly on Lambert for not taking advantage, it is also a recipe for disaster when you’re expecting a young player to take a leading role in a men’s league.” – Tony Ferrari, The Hockey News

Sportsnet’s Sean Reynolds said on his podcast “The Kenny & Renny Show”, that he asked his Finnish sources about what they thought went wrong with Lambert and the response was that he was in a bad situation last season. The choice he made about where to play was indeed a hindrance to his development. Mark Hillier, the director of amateur scouting for the Jets confirmed this in a post-draft interview.

Lambert to Spend the 2022-23 Season Developing

Lambert does not have a contract in place for this upcoming season in Liiga, which suggests he may make the move to North America this fall. The most logical spot for him would be in the Western Hockey League (WHL) with the Seattle Thunderbirds after they acquired him from the Saskatoon Blades before the draft. It would make sense for him to get used to the North American game on the NHL-sized ice surface and on a squad some are already projecting to be the WHL’s best team next season.

Hillier wouldn’t confirm this but suggested the WHL would be his preference. A less likely scenario could be a stint with the Jets’ affiliate Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League as Lambert has already played in a league against men the past two seasons. Wherever he plays, expect him to markedly improve and return to the top-line player the Jets believe he can become.

Lambert Could Be the Gem that Others Passed On

Getting him out of a non-development situation is the first move for the Jets, putting that opportunity into action will be up to Lambert himself. Should he go to the WHL, I believe he will flourish. It’s a great chance for him to improve on a strong team in a development league meant exactly for players like him.

With a bounce-back season, Lambert will prove to be a gem of a pick for the Jets and I believe you will see him in a Jets uniform with a significant role in two to three seasons. One bad season does not make or break a career, it’s how you react to it that matters. The Jets were fortunate to have him available at 30 and will reap the rewards for their belief in him. Pair him with Rutger McGroarty, who was selected with their first pick at 14, they have significantly bolstered their prospect pool at the forward position. As such, the first round of the draft went very well for the Jets this year.

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