Jets steal Lambert with 30th pick
Chevy surprised Finnish forward available after being ranked in Top 10
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/07/2022 (337 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
MONTREAL — It wasn’t that long ago Brad Lambert was seen as a virtual lock to go inside the Top 10 of this year’s NHL Draft. Maybe even top five. Yet there he was on Thursday night inside Bell Centre, at 29 picks and counting, still waiting for his name to be called.
Then the Winnipeg Jets stepped to the podium.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling. It’s something you dream about,” the 18-year-old forward said moments after being selected 30th-overall. “It was a great night, a little nerve racking.”
Lambert has a bit of “boom or bust” potential to him, one of the more intriguing names in this year’s prospect pool. Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff believes his club just got the best skater available, one coming off a forgettable year in Finland that caused his stock to drop.
“If you’re looking at the result going into the year, it wasn’t the season I’d like to have as a team or myself,” said Lambert, who had just four goals and six assists in 49 games playing in Finland’s top men’s league. “I learned a lot. I learned a lot about the two-way responsibility of the game and playing at both ends of the ice. That’s going to help me going forward. It’s going to help me take the next step.”
This was Winnipeg’s second pick in the first round. They used their own at No. 14 to select American winger Rutger McGroarty. This one came courtesy of the New York Rangers as part of the Andrew Copp trade.
“You rely on your scouts, you’re not relying on anyone else’s scouts or any outside publications. Everything else is just outside noise,” Cheveldayoff said of landing a guy they were surprised fell into their laps at this spot. “We have to stay like that. When you have that kind of conviction, you end up generally getting some really good players.”
Despite being born overseas, Lambert considers himself at least part-Canadian. His father is from Saskatchewan, a journeyman pro hockey player who travelled the globe. Most of Lambert’s family still resides in the Great White North.
“At the end of the day I might have fell to 30, but I can go back up just as quick. I think I have the skill and speed. I think I have one of the best skill sets in the draft. I believe in my skill,” he said. “To be perfectly honest with you, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is what I do from here on forward. Anyone in this draft can be a boom or a bust. Work ethic and stuff like that is what is going to get you to be a boom player.”
Lambert may not be heading back to Finland. He’s not currently under contract, and his Western Hockey League rights are now owned by Seattle. Given his international status, he’d also be an option to play in the American Hockey League at his age.
“I’m going to talk to Winnipeg obviously and see what they’re thinking. Wherever they think is best for my development, that’s where I’ll go,” he said.
Cheveldayoff said he’s not overly concerned by Lambert’s lack of production last year against tough competition.
“It’s hard for young players to get different types of opportunities to really accentuate their talents over there. But the positive is the he’s played with men, so he knows what it’s like to play in a men’s organization and in a men’s league,” he said. “Unfortunately, the world junior tournament didn’t get a chance to show itself there because I think — and fortunately for us maybe — because I think that might have been his coming-out party, based on the early returns there. Again, great opportunity for the Jets organization.”
Lambert said he leaned on his father for advice when the going got tough, as it did often this year.
“He’s been huge in my career. He’s the reason I am where I am. Whether it’s learning how to skate or watching video with me now,” he said. “His advice was it doesn’t matter where I go today, it’s what I do after that.”
Lambert had plenty of family in the crowd on Thursday night. He thinks his game is perfectly suited to a North American style.
“Canada has always felt like a second home to me. It’s like a six-hour drive to Saskatoon or something like that. Close to home. Hopefully, I can make the team eventually and have family come maybe watch me play. That’s my goal from now on,” he said.
He’s also hoping to be the latest success story in Winnipeg from Finland, following in the footsteps of players such as Teemu Selanne and Patrik Laine.
“They’ve drafted a bunch of good guys, a bunch of that have had great rookie seasons and great careers,” he said. “I’m just looking to work my ass off and become the next.”
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.