We’re rounding out the top-10 of the draft board, and things are getting really interesting around here. For starters, we’ve got a tie for number 10! We’ll hit the first half of that today, and then our mystery other player will be tomorrow. How fun.
Also interesting is, well, our tenth player in Brad Lambert. He’s a tremendously skilled forward, but he’s seen his production drop off over his last two seasons in Liiga, and pairing that with some concerns about his ceiling and compete level, he’s quickly turned into the most polarizing of this top prospects group. We’ve got a lot to unpack here, so let’s get right into it.
BSH 2022 Community Draft Board, No. T-10: Brad Lambert
Team: JYP/Pelicans (Liiga)
Statistics: 2 G, 4 A in 24 GP (JYP), 2 G, 2 A in 25 GP (Pelicans)
No. 10 (EU skaters) by NHL Central Scouting
No. 11 by McKenzie/TSN (midseason)
No. 28 by Dobber Prospects (April)
No. 4 by Wheeler/The Athletic (midseason)
What’s there to like?
When he’s going, Lambert is one of the most highly skilled and dynamic players in this draft class. He’s incredibly creative with the puck, making a ton of plays with control and in possession when he has his confidence going, and is incredibly difficult to defend.
What immediately really pops about his game is his skating. He is absolutely one of, if not the best, skaters in this draft class. He brings good speed, to be sure, with an explosive stride, but the real asset is the slipperiness that he’s able to bring through his edgework and cutbacks, and ability to spin away from defenders, and even being able to use the exits from those spins to pick up even more speed. If you’re looking to get into the real nitty gritty of his skating game, this is a great breakdown.
This skating ability, of course, is also a great asset to Lambert’s offensive game. He’s able to move the puck incredibly well in transition and get the puck into the offensive zone with control to get he and his teammates to work. His passing is clean and his ability to find and hit seams is really strong, and his teammates always have to be ready to receive a pass because of it. With his shot, while not overly heavy, he brings a nice bit of deception and quick release, rounding out that offensive skillset nicely.
And, while the scoring numbers haven't been coming for him, Lambert has still spent the last three seasons playing in Liiga and getting experience playing against grown men, and that in and of itself is very useful.
What’s not to like?
And here’s where things get complicated. Because for as much skill as he brings to the table, he remains a frustrating prospect whose production hasn’t really matched that (indeed, he even took a step back from two seasons ago to this one, from 15 points to 10). I’d like to highlight some of what Chris Peters had to say about Lambert on his podcast last month, based on his viewings and conversations with scouts who watch Lambert even more regularly. It’s lengthy, but it’s comprehensive:
“There is some things that we know for sure. He is one of the best skaters in this draft, bar none. He has incredibly dynamic skating ability, he has excellent skill level, there’s creativity. What I think a lot of people are concerned about is is there enough of a competitive element to him? Is he gonna be able to get you inside, is he gonna be able to get inside to make plays. He played for three teams in three seasons in the Liiga. I think the reason he could still become a first round pick this year is because his tools are such that he’s exceptional in that skating department, in that skill department, he has the pedigree, he’s played at that high level, he can be a center, he can be a wing. But he had four points in 25 games after moving from JYP to [Pelicans]. He had no points in the playoffs. His ice time was adequate [with Pelicans], it didn’t matter, he didn’t produce. And I think that there are teams that absolutely have Brad Lambert on their no draft, that he will not be on their list…The thing that I have great concern about with Brad Lambert is just, has he lost his way, did he plateau, is he gonna get it back. If you draft him, can you live with the frustration that’s going to come with the way that he’s played the last couple of seasons, if that is the trend that continues… Lambert is a fascinating prospect.
“The other thing I’ve also wondered about with Brad Lambert is how much of his ability in the lower levels was tied to his immense skating and skill and did he not continue to develop the hockey sense at a level that would allow him to process the game and make plays at the professional level. Liiga is a tough league to play in, and he’s still a teenager playing in a men’s league. But I feel pretty strongly that, when I do my draft rankings again… there’s a good chance that they way things have trended for me that I will not have him in the first round. As I mentioned, I talked about the scouts in Finland and the Finnish scouts in Germany and a number of them said they would draft him, in the second or third round, some said they wouldn’t touch him. That doesn’t impact the way that I rank him because I think the ability is there, and just because another team doesn’t think he should be drafted doesn’t mean I don’t think he should be drafted. I think he should be drafted. I think he’s got a chance. But I think you have to draft him with eyes wide open that you are getting a project, not a finished product.”
There’s obviously a lot to unpack there, and the fact that there may be teams out there with Lambert on their DND list sounds a bit scary. But the fact remains that Lambert is a tremendously talented young player, but there’s a lot of work to be done to develop him, and a bit of risk in potentially picking him very high. For a team with an abundance of first and second round picks, he’s exactly the type of player you want to look at taking a shot on, but a team with a single relatively high pick might well pass in favor of going a “safer” route.
How would he fit in the Flyers’ system?
This is also tricky. Remaining on the surface level, Lambert’s speed and dynamic skill level is exactly what the Flyers need a boost of in their pipeline, and his positional flexibility is a nice added asset.
But the fit for Lambert in this system remains a bit questionable, and that may well be even more of a Flyers issue than a Lambert issue. From where we stand, it seems the best setting for Lambert to be in in order to best maximize his skill set is with a team with a proven track record of developing prospects well, even being able to get more out of them than their pedigree might have us expecting, as well as a team with a well defined and developed system of accountability to help him work through those potential compete issues. And, frankly, at present the Flyers check none of those boxes. They have taken that risk before (looking at, to a smaller degree, but with shades of familiarity, the pick of Samu Tuomaala last year), and maybe they put some work in there this summer and get to a point where they could deal with and mesh well with a player like Lambert, but at the moment, the fit doesn’t look like a great one for anybody.
Could the Flyers actually get him?
Lambert will almost certainly be on the board when the Flyers pick at fifth overall, and if things are as dire across the board for Lambert as Peters suggested they might be, there’s a possibility that he could even still be on the board when the Flyers make their third round pick (remember, they don’t have a second round pick this year). Might that be a position where they feel better taking a chance on him? Who’s to say. But for our (sentient blog) money, that might just be worth some consideration.
No poll today! We’ll hit the other half of this tie tomorrow and then get back to the poll then.