After struggling to find the scoresheet early in the season with JYP Jyväskylä in Liiga, top prospect Brad Lambert has moved on to a new club.
Lambert joined JYP last year after one season in the HIFK organization in 2019-20. He is re-joining the Lahden Pelicans, the team he spent his 14 and 15-year-old seasons with.
A fresh start for Lambert is exactly what the doctor ordered for the 2022 draft prospect. The young Finn has some of the best tools in the entire draft class. He possesses elite skating and maneuverability on the ice, excelling as a transition player at the Liiga level. Lambert has impressive puck skills that can keep up with his feet already. He shows high-level passing ability, threading the needle through layers of the opposing defense.
As an offensive play driver, Lambert shows potential to be a difference-maker at times at the pro-level. His stints at the world juniors over the last two years, despite a small sample this year, proved that his ability to affect the game in a major way is obvious. Against his peers, he is clearly a step ahead of the vast majority of players in most areas of the game.
The lack of production is an obvious area of concern, though. It’s a large reason as to why he has taken a bit of a tumble down some public draft boards. The concern was only amplified when fellow 2022 draft prospect Joakim Kemell started the season on fire and was putting up gaudy point totals to start the season on the same team. The pair of Finns have been linked in conversations all season because of it.
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.
Context can often give you hints as to why and if you watch Lambert over an extended period of time, they become evident. Lambert certainly isn’t without his faults and some of the blame for his lack of production lands squarely on his shoulders. He has shown some tendencies to pass up opportunities to attack the center lane in the offensive zone and has some timidness in his game at times, but both problems have often been blown out of proportion to some extent. This is an uber-talented hockey player who has struggled to put points up.
A move in the Liiga to help a player’s development is far from irregular and it has been a strategy used by prospects in Finland for some time now. Another highly touted prospect, New York Islanders draft pick Aatu Räty, left Kärpät to join Jukurit for 2021-22. Räty went from a player struggling to produce in any meaningful way at the Liiga level to a near point-per-game player through 18 games with his new squad. Räty is now being viewed much more favorably again in the prospect world.
Opportunity matters. Consistency in a player’s role matters. Sometimes a change of scenery is all that is needed.
With that said, Lambert has moved around a lot in a short time frame. Loyalty and stability are factors that NHL teams care about deeply and the move itself will only create more questions for NHL clubs. Finding his footing with the Pelicans will go a long way in terms of how teams view Lambert come draft day.
To sum it up in the words of one western conference scout, “It’s time to put up or shut up for Lambert.”