January 5, 2022

Lambert gets swagger back with strong World Juniors effort

Brad Lambert was an easy favorite to slot into the No.2 spot behind Shane Wright when ranking prospects eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft.

But a lot can change in the matter of months.

The 18-year-old has struggled all season in Liiga action with JYP and has been outshined by teammate and fellow 2022 draft eligible prospect Joakim Kemell. Lambert has only produced two goals and four assists in 24 games and has seen his ice-time fluctuate on a regular basis.

The numbers don’t tell the full story with Lambert, thought.

Sure the production is nowhere near where you’d want it from a perceived elite prospect, but his level of play hasn’t been as dire as advertised.

“He has been struggling offensively to start the year but based on his play in this game it’s only a matter of time before his offensive numbers start to rise,” FCHockey scout Rasmus Tornqvist said in a recent scouting report on the Finnish winger.

With Lambert, his early season Liiga struggles can be attributed to a few things — some self-inflicted and some out of his control.

Lambert hasn’t been as assertive with the puck on his stick, nor has he attacked opposing teams with his elite speed and strength which has caused him to be held out of the prime scoring areas making it difficult to become a consistent scoring threat. Injuries and illness has also led to Lambert’s lack of opportunity and inconsistent opportunity with JYP, too.

He has fallen down the ranks, and opinions of him range from top-5 to top-20, but the No. 8 prospect in FCHockey’s Winter ranking has quickly become a polarizing prospect much like 2021 second-round pick and fellow Finnish player Aatu Raty.

That all might’ve changed however.

And in just two games.

The 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship has been famously known as an event where draft eligible players can skyrocket up the draft boards with an elite performance and early on it seems that Lambert is doing just that. While the tournament was sadly cut short due to COVID-19 protocols, Lambert’s brief but shining performance in the games he was able to play left a lasting impression that should instil some confidence in him heading into the second half of the season.

It was only two games, but Lambert was tied for second in the tournament with five points (one goal, four assists) and led all 2022 NHL Draft eligible players in scoring.

Lambert seemed to rediscover his confidence again and remember how to use his physical traits to his advantage. During his two outings, Lambert attacked with speed, used his strength to power his way to the prime scoring areas and use his vision/playmaking ability to consistently create offense for the Finnish squad.

There is a huge difference between playing professional hockey in Finland and playing against U20 competition — event at the World Junior level — but Lambert’s performance, despite being a small sample size, cannot be ignored. He was able to find himself again and is remind people that he’s really good at hockey despite the poor production we’ve seen so far in JYP.

While some people might be surprised by Lambert’s offensive explosion in the two games he played, it doesn’t come as a surprise to some scouts.

“In my opinion, his elite speed and ability to stickhandle at full speed is what makes him very intriguing going into the draft. Even though his production has not been as good as expected to begin the season, I still think he is one of the top three prospects in this class,” Tornqvist said

Normally, it isn’t smart to make judgements on a player’s performance at an international event, especially when the event was only two games.

It could be justified in Lambert’s case, though.

He’s been highly-regarded his whole life, and we know he has the talent to be a top pick in the NHL Draft. These two games aren’t a flash in the pan but rather they are a glimpse into what Lambert truly is as a hockey player. If he can find a way to translate his confidence from the World Juniors to his play in Liiga, Lambert will quickly regain his preseason pedigree.

And re-establish himself as one of the top prospects in the 2022 draft class in the process.

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