Another day, another installment of 'Names To Know', a look-ahead at prospects that the Columbus Blue Jackets may be keying on in advance of July's NHL Draft.
Previous Names To Know
With two of the first dozen selections — picks #6 and #12 overall — no team has a higher second selection in the first draft than the Blue Jackets. With a balanced pool of players, it gives the organization a ton of options.
So far, we've keyed on a handful of players that are generally agreed upon in the public space as consensus lottery players, like Simon Nemec, David Jiricek, and Joakim Kemell. But others, like Ivan Miroschnichenko, Matthew Savoie, and Cutter Gauthier, have fans and detractors alike.
Brad Lambert is a polarizing prospect.
It wasn't long ago that Lambert was considered a surefire top-five pick, maybe even pushing Shane Wright for the top pick in the draft. That he's fallen off is notable, but his name has had some momentum in the public sphere in recent months.
Lambert, who was born in Finland, holds both Canadian and Finnish citizenship and has been playing in Finland since 2017-18. This past season, he split time between JYP and Pelicans in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, where his production rate dipped after a monster (for his age) underage season in 2020-21. For reference, as a 17-year-old, Lambert posted 7-8-15 in 46 games. That production slipped this year. After tallying just six points in 24 games (2-4-6) with JYP, he switched back to Pelicans in hopes of reestablishing his production, but he managed to score just 2-2-4 in 25 regular games, then followed that up with 0-0-3 in three playoff games.
But what Lambert lacks in counting stats, he makes up for in his traits, most notably, his skating, which is arguably the best in the draft class. Lambert's stride, deception, and crossovers are a masterclass in the sport. He is dynamic with the puck, easily able to evade forecheckers and carry the puck from the defensive zone to the offensive zone. He isn't the physically strongest kid in the draft, but his 6'0", 179 lb. frame is sufficient for the forward, who projects as a center in the NHL. In watching Lambert play, his elusiveness, with his repertoire of cutbacks, puck protects, and jukes, sticks out.
The Athletic's Corey Pronman ranked him 14th overall in his recent big board:
Analysis: Lambert is a high-end athlete. His skating ability is explosive. He has great speed and edgework, allowing him to cut away from pressure easily. You combine his skating with strong hands and he’s a go-to guy for zone entries. He can make tough plays in motion and shows O-zone creativity. He can use his skating to circle too much at times but this season showed more willingness to attack directly. He’s full of potential, even though I’ve seen him take a lot of nights off. I think he will be a top-six winger in the NHL but he may frustrate coaches.
Skating alone isn't enough to justify a lottery pick in the NHL Draft, otherwise, someone like Liam Foudy would already be a contributing player in the NHL. There are question marks about Lambert's shot, his decision-making, his playmaking ability, and his ability to defend more physical forwards. On the other hand, the game is faster than ever, and there are worse traits to possess then being arguably the most technically proficient and dynamic skater in the entire draft class. I would be surprised if the Blue Jackets took a swing at him at #6, but, given GM Jarmo Kekalainen's sources within Liiga, it wouldn't shock me at all to see the Blue Jackets snag him with the 12th overall pick in the draft.
|The Sporting News||12th*|