Over the last few days, I threw around an idea about the New York Islanders using their 13th overall pick at the 2022 NHL Draft in order to acquire an already established NHL forward in Josh Anderson. Some called me crazy, and yeah, I’ve been called a heck of a lot worse.
The idea was just a creative way for the Islanders to strengthen their group, a team that needs help in their top six.
Although I ultimately believe that New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello will part ways with the pick, given its value and where the Islanders sit in terms of competing for a Stanley Cup, but what if they elected to keep it?
In his first draft projections, our draft expert Marco D’Amico had the New York Islanders selecting Cutter Gauthier out of the United States Team Development Program with the 13th pick. In D’Amico’s latest June rankings, he has Gauthier at no. 9.
Brad Lambert has struggled to produce over his career in Liiga, which began in 2019. He’s played for three teams over the last four seasons, as he just has not been able to be the scorer that everyone envisioned after he showcased his skill sets as a young teen with the U-16 Pelicans (Liiga).
Starting your professional career at such a young age, while also having to deal with the mental toll of the pandemic, is not an easy ask and while it’s not the only cause of his struggles, COVID-19 certainly could have played a part.
Recent Islanders draftee Aatu Räty, who was projected to be a top pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, fell significantly as he did not hear his name called until the second round, the 52nd pick. His fall from grace came due to a down year in 2020-21, again, during the pandemic.
But the Islanders took a chance on Räty, and now he could be the steal of that draft class.
With Lambert’s continual fall in the rankings as each projection and mock draft surfaces, the Islanders have a strong chance to land him, if they think he is best available when the Islanders logo appears on the clock. I’m not going to say Lambert at no. 13 would be the steal of the draft, but the potential is there for the Finnish forward to be better than what he’s shown.
In D’Amico’s latest draft breakdown, he had this to say about the 18-year-old Finnish forward:
Over the last year, Brad Lambert has raised many questions, having played for three different teams in the Finnish Liiga in the previous two years. That will not intimidate general manager Lou Lamoriello in any way, as he picks the clear best player available at this rank.
Lambert’s game is all about speed and skill, as he’s capable of making plays at top speed without breaking stride or form. He is a very dangerous playmaker that can play both center and wing; which could provide the Islanders with many options down the line as their young forward corps continue to grow.
What we have come to realize at the NHL level, in a short amount of time, is that the NHL game, particularly in the regular season is all about speed and skill. That’s all good and well, but you need more than that to be an effective player at the NHL level.
Sam Tirpák, a regional scout over at Dobber Prospect, stated that Lambert lacks hockey IQ and that even his effort at times is questionable. Byron Bader, creator of Hockey Prospecting, shared that two to three years ago, Brad Lambert was vying to be the first overall pick in his draft year but a lack of growth had taken him out of that discussion.
Lambert started his pro career before he turned 16, as he played just four games for HIFK Helsinki during the 2019-20 season. In those four games, he notched two assists in what was a short sample size. He recorded 18 PIM over that span.
He did show off the hands and was praised by skills specialist Pavel Barber:
15 year old Brad Lambert with a nasty fake backhand cut forehand move in the SO. pic.twitter.com/3SJ3tv56Ly
— Pavel Barber (@HeyBarber) March 20, 2019
The reason for the lack of games that season came due to his call-up from HIFK’s U-20 team, where Lambert scored 18 goals with 20 assists in 42 games.
In 2020-21, Lambert played 46 games for yP HT Jyvaskyla (say that ten times fast), but only had seven goals and eight assists, along with 18 PIM. Although using the plus/- statistic to judge a player is frowned upon, his -24 was a bit concerning. And without context, that could just be because he was on a really weak defensive team.
Well, it turns out, that his -24 was the worst on Jyvaskyla that season, with only five players in the positives.
In 2021-22 with Jyvaskyla, Lambert scored just twice in 24 games, adding four assists. His PIM rose exponentially, to 31, while his plus/- finished at a -10, which ranked middle of the pack. Due to his lack of production, he moved clubs, rejoining the team he spent his age 14 and 15 seasons with, the Pelicans.
However, the “fresh start” move did not pay dividends, as he only scored twice with two assists in 25 games. Lambert was more disciplined, with only 12 PIM. And his plus/- of -6, although an improvement, ranked towards the bottom of the Pelicans roster.
On the surface, the stat lines are rough. But as we know, production is not everything. Players that can make quick decisions are valued, and Lambert has shown an ability to do that at times.
Brad Lambert is so good at problem solving in the neutral zone.
— Josh Tessler 🇺🇦 (@JoshTessler_) March 10, 2022
Brad Lambert has played on the world stage, representing Team Finland at the 2020 and 2021 World Junior U-20 Championships. In a total of nine games, Lambert had two goals and seven assists and was a positive seven.
According to Olivia Reiner of the Philadelphia Inquierer, Brad Lambert spoke to 26 teams at the 2022 NHL Draft Combine (June 1-6), including the New York Islanders. He will be spending the summer training in Toronto and will have to decide if he will play in North America next season. If he were to play in North America, it would be in the Western Hockey League, with the Saskatoon Blades owning his rights.
As D’Amico said, Lamoriello will choose the best player available at no. 13, if he keeps the pick. The question is will Lambert fall or will a team ahead of the Islanders take a chance on the forward?