The San Jose Sharks have shown a commitment to selecting high-upside players when their stock could be undervalued. For example, Ryan Merkley’s attitude and defensive responsibility saw the immensely skilled defenseman fall to 20th overall in the 2018 NHL Draft.
In 2020, Daniil Gushchin shockingly fell to the third round, prompting the Sharks to trade up for the Russian winger. Despite averaging a goal every two games while carrying the load offensively for the Muskegon Lumberjacks, he likely fell due to size concerns.
Another player with high upside but lots of uncertainty would be Benjamin Gaudreau, San Jose’s recent third-round pick. The goaltender went first overall in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) draft and was shelled in his first junior season. Then, his draft year only saw him start games for Canada at the U-18 World Championships. Although he excelled, that small sample size rightfully spooked NHL clubs. The Sharks still took the chance.
While it’s still far too early to grade these selections, it’s still clear the Sharks will swing for the fences on talents, even if there are looming concerns. For the 2022 NHL Draft, there is no player more polarizing than Brad Lambert. Expected to be an elite-level in the years leading up to 2022, his recent season has been less than phenomenal.
Brad Lambert’s Profile
Lambert was previously a lock for a top-five selection in the 2022 NHL Draft after producing at nearly a point-per-game in the Finnish under-20 league as a 15/16-year-old. He followed that up by staying a full season in the top Finnish professional league. Then, his draft year took a massive turn.
To give context on Brad Lambert’s recent season, we need to look at how poor his supporting casts were. In the top Finnish league, the forward started the season with the playoff-missing JYP HT Jyvaskyla, where he struggled with just two goals and six points in 24 games. This was an especially poor look next to fellow draft-eligible Joakim Kemell, who finished the season with 15 goals and 23 points in 39 games.
After a great showing in two games at the World Junior Championships, he could not replicate that success. He forced himself to Pelicans, a slightly higher ranked team in the SM-Liiga, but he still struggled. Lambert had just two goals and four points in 25 games, and his team fell in the qualifying round of the postseason.
Lambert was on lackluster teams playing professional hockey against men. His quality of competition was much higher and more physically mature than many other draft-eligibles’ opposition. I would speculate he could turn to the Canadian junior system next season, similar to Fabian Lysell from the 2021 NHL Draft, where Lambert’s rights are held by the Saskatoon Blades.
While his point totals this season were disappointing, his high talent level is undeniable. He played at both wing and center, where his ability to transition his team from the defensive and offensive zones was incredible with ease while using great skating and puck skills.
His vision is also a great asset, best highlighted during his success in the brief World Junior Championships. At the NHL level, this will certainly see him make money with time and space on the power play. His game sense and playmaking ability were not on full display with the subpar teammates he had throughout the season.
Defensively, Lambert is not as sensational, which ought to be expected for an offensively gifted forward. This makes the chances of him being an NHL center slightly less likely, although many scouts project he could be adept at both wing or center in the future.
Lambert’s Fit With San Jose
Compared to my most recent target for the Sharks, Frank Nazar III, Lambert’s potential placement with the Sharks would be slightly shakier. To me, his likelihood to play center is lower than Nazar’s.
His play style is also eerily similar to what the Sharks already have in William Eklund. But I would not worry about that too much, especially if San Jose determines that Lambert would be the best player available when selecting 11th overall.
If deemed a center, Lambert would certainly become the team’s top center prospect ahead of Thomas Bordeleau. As a winger, I would put him behind Eklund but above names like Daniil Gushchin, Brandon Coe, and Ozzy Wiesblatt on the team’s future depth chart.
I would expect around two years of development for Lambert before slotting into an NHL lineup full-time. As mentioned, he’s a riskier prospect that the Sharks could not rush into the league. Should everything go right, the team would have their hands on another dynamic, offensively elite forward that would slot into their top-six.
What do you think of Lambert as a target for the Sharks’ pick at 11th-overall? Let me know in the comments!
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Josh is a young writer from the Bay Area, who now studies journalism at San Diego State University. In addition to covering the Sharks and Gulls for THW, Josh is a crossover scout at FCHockey and covers his school’s hockey team at TheDailyAztec. When not obsessing over hockey, Josh loves blasting music with friends, theatre, and playing with his dog. Follow Josh on Twitter for his latest takes on the Sharks, Gulls, and NHL Draft!