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A busy 2022-23 season concludes for Winnipeg Jets prospect Brad Lambert

A recap of a busy year for the Finnish prospect.

The Jets season concluded on April 27th after round 1 of the post-season. The Moose playoff run also ended after their first round back on May 6th. Almost all prospects in the organization playing in North America or overseas have also wrapped up their respective seasons. In fact the last man standing was 2022 1st rounder Brad Lambert who finally saw his 2022-23 campaign end with a loss in the Memorial Cup Final last night in Kamloops.

It has been a busy 2022-23 for the Finnish prospect who was drafted by the Jets with the 30th overall pick back in July of 2022 in Montreal.

He would arrive in Winnipeg for the first time as a prospect for rookie camp last September as the team did not hold a development camp last summer. At this point he had already participated with Finland in the Summer World Juniors in Alberta where he had won a silver medal although he didn’t play in the last couple of games. He and his fellow Jets rookies would head west to B.C. to participate with the rookies from the Oilers, Canucks and Flames organizations.

Back in Winnipeg for training camp, he would participate in his first pre-season game which saw him score, add an assist and pick up the moniker ‘Big Bad Brad’ courtesy of defenceman Nate Schmidt. Lambert’s post-game reaction to his nickname was “I like it. I didn’t think I was that big but I’ll take it”.

Photo Credit: Alexander James (Illegal Curve)

He made an impression on Jets bench boss Rick Bowness who had this to say about Lambert during camp:

“What he does we can’t teach. You can’t teach what that kid does with speed. It’s unreal how fast he is…some of the things he does that’s just natural and it’s beautiful to watch when he gets going.”

He would survive a few training camp cuts, spending over two weeks at camp, before he was released to the Moose of the AHL. He was released not assigned as he didn’t have a signed contract with Winnipeg, although that would come five days after his being sent to Manitoba.

Lambert would play his first game as a pro (in North America) with the Moose on October 15th. He had a solid start scoring twice and adding an assist in his first four games with Manitoba. And as you might expect his first goal in Winnipeg was one which saw him use his speed and skill. The Nikolaj Ehlers comparable was easy to see given his ability to skate. He even tried a Michigan.

Photo Credit: Alexander James (Illegal Curve)

After 14 games with the Moose he would head east to Halifax-Moncton where he joined Team Finland for the 2023 World Junior Tournament. Five months after winning silver the Finns were eliminated in the quarterfinals.

In January the Jets made it official assigning Lambert to the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL where he would have the ability to compete against his peers for the first time in years given he had been playing in Liiga against men prior to being drafted. The move turned out quite well for both the player and team as the Thunderbirds would finish behind the Winnipeg Ice as the second best team in the WHL. For Lambert in 26 games he scored 17 goals and added 21 assists for 38 points. Goals that looked like this, this, this, this (part of a six point game) and many more.

One of the most interesting developments for Lambert was not just his move to junior but that the Seattle coaching staff felt he could play up the middle rather than on the wing which is where he had been with Manitoba. When we spoke on the End of Season Roundtable with Moose GM Craig Heisinger this was one of the things he spoke about:

“I think it’s really interesting that Brad Lambert in the second half of the season in Seattle has gone down and played centre and that doesn’t make a ton of sense to me but he’s excelled at it. Like I wouldn’t have saw Brad Lambert as a centre. But obviously Matt O’Dette either saw something there that we didn’t or sometimes a situation in junior when you’re short players, unless one of your affiliated players is close-by, you’re playing short and it’s like ‘anyone play centre’? And it’s worked out. He’s playing very well at centre.”

The Thunderbirds rolled to a 10-0 start in the WHL playoffs before they lost a pair of games to Kamloops. They got back on track to win that series which set up a much anticipated WHL Championship series with the Winnipeg Ice who had finished the regular season as the top team in the WHL. After the Ice took game 1 in Winnipeg, Lambert had a two goal night in game 2 to help his Thunderbirds club even the series. They would end up taking the next three games as well to conclude the WHL season by winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

Lambert was now a WHL Champion and had an impactful playoffs finishing with six goals and 20 assists for 26 points in 17 games. And being part of a winning environment helps. After the game 5 win he had this to say about winning a championship:

“It’s unbelievable. One of the best feelings I’ve ever had in my life. To do it with this group of guys. When I came in here they just took me in right away, it’s like I’ve known everyone for my whole lifetime. So it’s unreal.”

A week later he would be heading from Kent, Washington to Kamloops, BC to participate in the Memorial Cup. Prior to the start of the tournament he was asked to reflect on his season to date and his assignment to the WHL.

“Obviously it was a bit of a disappointment at the time but now I just try to make the most out of the opportunity. We have an unbelievable groups of guys and to win the championship was unbelievable”.

He was asked if he considered a move back to Finland if things didn’t work out in the NHL or AHL. His response showed a maturity:

“At the start of the year when I went there I said I’ll play wherever they think is best and this is what they thought was best. Just try to play my game wherever I am, do the best I can and make the most out of the opportunity.”

The Thunderbirds would go 2-1 in their round robin play and face the Peterborough Petes in the Semi Finals with a chance to advance to play for the Memorial Cup. Lambert chose a good time to score his first goal of the tournament as he put Seattle up 1-0 and they would go on to win 4-1 and earn their shot at Quebec who was the only team to defeat them in the round robin portion of the tournament. Ultimately the Thunderbirds fell short with the Remparts taking the Memorial Cup by a final score of 5-0.

So he concluded his 2022-23 campaign with a few pre-season Jets games, 12 World Junior games with Finland, 14 games in the AHL with the Moose and 26 regular season and 17 playoff games with Seattle in the WHL as well as five games in the Memorial Cup.

And there won’t be much rest for Lambert. According to by Scott Wheeler of The Athletic who wrote an excellent article about Lambert (here) the forward will take some time off before he fly’s to Toronto where he will train for a second straight summer with “Gary Roberts and his group north of the city”.