Lambert excited to ‘get rolling again’ Jets prospect reassigned from Moose to juniors
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He’s one of the most intriguing prospects the Winnipeg Jets have ever had. While Brad Lambert may currently be out of sight for local fans, he remains very much on the mind.
Lambert, 19, opened plenty of eyes during an impressive first NHL training camp last fall. Although he didn’t ultimately crack the big club, the 30th-overall pick in last summer’s draft remained close to his new hockey home when he was assigned to the Manitoba Moose.
His development took a detour when, following the World Juniors, he was re-assigned to the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. It sounds like the decision by Jets management had the guy Winnipeg defenceman Nate Schmidt dubbed “Big Bad Brad” quite mad.
“I’d rather not discuss that,” Lambert told the Free Press in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “I was looking forward to going back to Manitoba.”
Lambert had two goals and an assist in his 14 AHL games, but it appears Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff felt the Finnish product would be better served by finishing the year in junior. At 6-1 but just 175 pounds, the physical element of pro hockey likely played a factor.
“Now we’re looking forward, and I’m just going to make the best out of the situation where I’m at,” said Lambert.
He’s off to a good start, with four goals and three assists in his six games to date on a Thunderbirds team that is 36-9-2 and ranked fourth in the Canadian Hockey League. It hasn’t entirely been a smooth transition, as he was forced to miss multiple Seattle home games while he waited for his work visa to get processed.
He ultimately spent nearly two weeks in Saskatoon following a road game against the Blades, waiting for an appointment in Ottawa that finally happened in late January.
“I’m just looking forward to helping the team win. Obviously it was a disappointment at the time (to get sent down). But you know, now I’m here and am excited to get rolling again.”–Brad Lambert
“I was getting a little frustrated, but I finally got there, and then over here (in Seattle),” said Lambert. “The last week has been pretty hectic. From Saskatoon to Ottawa to (Seattle) and then three (games) in three days. Now just trying to get some rest.”
Fortunately, Lambert’s grandmother lives in Saskatchewan so he was able to spend some time with her.
“I was able to skate, so that was good. Just trying to keep myself in shape, but it was pretty frustrating. Just watching hockey and not being able to play after being sent down is pretty tough,” he said.
Also frustrating to Lambert was the way he was used at the World Juniors, where he was essentially relegated to bottom-six duty and had just one goal on a Finnish squad that was eliminated by Sweden in the quarterfinals.
“Yeah,” he began, before stopping himself. “I’d rather not comment on that one.”
Lambert was once projected to be a top five pick, but his stock fell after a tough 2021-22 season playing in the top Finnish men’s league. He had just four goals and six assists in 49 games.
He’s only played 25 total games this year — 14 with the Moose, seven at the World Juniors and six so far with Seattle — but is hoping to now extend his season well into the spring. The Thunderbirds are absolutely loaded, and Lambert’s addition coupled with the re-assignment earlier this week of Dylan Guenther from the Arizona Coyotes has them among the Memorial Cup favourites.
“The atmosphere on this team is great,” said Lambert. “I’m just looking forward to helping the team win. Obviously, it was a disappointment at the time (to get sent down), but you know, now I’m here and am excited to get rolling again.”
Lambert believes this entire year, with the ups and downs, will ultimately make him a better, stronger player.
“Just being (at Jets camp) and getting to meet the guys, getting to be around lots of guys that have been superstars in this league for a while now, I’ve been able to learn from them and watch and see what they do. That was a great experience,” said Lambert, who has been keeping a close eye on Winnipeg.
“They’re having a great season. That’s really good they’re doing well.”
It’s a process. Just little by little getting stronger and getting bigger. At the same time keeping my speed and skill.”–Brad Lambert
Speaking of getting stronger, Lambert said he’s focusing on adding some muscle while not losing any aspect of what makes him such a dynamic player.
“Just trying to get better in the corners and being able to battle. I think that’s still something I really need to work on, getting stronger in the gym and on the ice,” he said.
“But you want to keep your explosiveness and stuff like that. You don’t all of a sudden want to go from being 180 pounds to 200 pounds but then not being able to skate anymore. So it’s a process. Just little by little getting stronger and getting bigger. At the same time keeping my speed and skill.”
Chaz Lucius, who was drafted 18th overall by the Jets in 2021, also began his season with the Moose (two goals, three assists in 12 games) before going to the U.S. World Juniors team (five goals, two assists and a bronze medal in seven games). He, too, was sent to junior, with the Portland Winterhawks owning his rights.
Unfortunately, Lucius suffered a shoulder injury last weekend which required surgery and ended his season. He had scored five goals and added 10 assists in six games with Portland, which is currently ranked 7th in the CHL.
“It obviously sucks for him,” said Lambert. “I’ve called him a couple times. I think he’s doing very good considering the circumstances. We were going to be playing them a few times (later this season), so I was looking forward to that.”
With Lambert and Lucius, in addition to first-rounder Rutger McGroarty (14th overall last summer, currently playing for the University of Michigan), the Jets future looks bright when it comes to the forward position.
Lambert hopes to make the full-time leap to the NHL as early as the fall, although he’s trying not to think that far ahead. As he’s learned this season, things can change in a hurry.
“Right now just concentrating on going as far as we can here (in Seattle),” said Lambert. “I’m just looking to help the team win and improve as much as I can. Then go in the next training camp being a better player and obviously doing the same thing I tried to do this year to make the team.”
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.
Updated on Tuesday, February 7, 2023 7:43 PM CST: Corrects details regarding how many games Lambert played this season and his point totals during the World Junionrs