The mobile defender has seen his draft stock slide in the past year, to the point of possible overcorrection.
Every year, there’s a prospect whose standing within the scouting community takes an unforeseen hit; this is sometimes deserved, but in other cases a product of circumstance. Often there are draft-eligible players who fall below lofty expectations, yet become solid or better NHL players. Carson Lambos falls squarely within the crosshairs of this characterization after what could be considered a disappointing 2020-21 campaign.
It was a chaotic year for all the players in this draft, but perhaps Lambos had the roughest time among the high-profile ones. After a brief, yet alarming run in Finland’s Liiga, U18 and U20 leagues, Lambos returned to the WHL for a pair of appearances before concluding his season. In particular, his work against professional competition as compared to some fellow prospects alarmed the scouting community, as well as us here at BSH whenever we watched him.
All of that aside, Lambos is a prospect who just last year was projected to be a top five pick, and it isn’t hard to see why. With projectable size, shooting talent, and skating, the former second overall WHL selection has plenty to offer for a team that’s confident in their development program. Let’s dive into the details.
BSH 2021 Community Draft Board, No. 15: Carson Lambos
Team: JYP (Liiga)
Stats: 0 G, 0 A in 2 GP
Team: JYP U20 (U20 SM-sarja)
Stats: 2 G, 9 A in 13 GP
Team: JYP U18 (U18 SM-sarja)
Stats: 0 G, 3 A in 2 GP
Team: Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
Stats: 0 G, 0 A in 2 GP
No. 11 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)
No. 15 by Consolidated Ranking
No. 30 by Elite Prospects
No. 24 by Eric D (On The Forecheck)
What’s there to like?
Lambos has two traits that particularly stand out when watching him, even in brief samples: he’s got great lateral mobility, and his shooting talent is very good for a defender. It’s tough to use adjectives like “incredible” or “generational” with a guy like Lambos (because they don’t fit), but he’s a very solid defender with reasonable framework to develop into a two-way blue liner at the NHL level. The shooting in particular is worth mentioning, particularly because Lambos isn’t just recognized for the power of his shot; it’s also about the variety of shooting techniques he uses, his efficient and effective weight transfer, and a release that’s surprisingly deceptive.
In terms of the ability that makes him an exciting defensive prospect, one only has to glance at how Lambos fared in one-on-ones with players of his own level. His hands for a player of this age are outstanding, and the aforementioned lateral agility and burst enables effective gap control and allows the Winnipeg native to keep play on the perimeter. Lambos also brings a physical edge with a pro-ready frame, standing at 6’1” and weighing in at 201 lbs.
What needs work?
Lambos needs to improve his straight line speed and backwards skating, as well as his anticipation of when to initiate his pivots. While we like his one-on-one ability, these things will need to improve for his style of play to translate against superior competition that could skate around him, rather than through him.
The biggest concern here, however, is decision making. Lambos plummeted in draft rankings throughout the year after he had a turnover-laden stint in Finland. The young defender seemed beleaguered and panicked against professional competition, with his exciting shooting talent, aggression, and isolated defensive ability abandoning him. With players like Brandt Clarke and Owen Power seeing great success against pro or high level competition, it’s no wonder that Lambos saw some regression in standing.
The tools for Lambos are certainly present, but hockey IQ is truthfully something that’s difficult to teach. The feel for the game that the WHL product lacks is reason for pause when looking at what kind of player he could become, particularly when anticipating the impact his offensive talent could have. In an increasingly transition-driven professional game, having a defender who struggles to successfully execute breakouts at a lower level of play isn’t exactly ideal. It’s a teachable skill, but entirely dependent on how a team’s development staff approaches the problem.
How would he fit in the Flyers’ system?
Lambos would become the team’s second best defensive prospect behind Cam York. The big defender boasts a unique element to his game that can’t be taught with his shooting talent, and he wouldn’t need to add much bulk before hitting the NHL. He’s a serious project who will need some time barring a shocking leap in processing speed and transitional engagement, but the Flyers have plenty of history when it comes to improving skating technique and working so at the bare minimum that should improve. Lambos is like most of the top defenders in this draft: an enigma whose ceiling is quite high, but whose floor is quite low. He’d be one of the few young players on the NHL team or in the pipeline with the ability to evolve into a star.
Could the Flyers actually get him?
There’s a reasonable scenario where Lambos gets picked at the end of the first round, so the answer here is yes. Bob McKenzie’s most recent draft ranking (one typically reflective of where a player will be picked, as opposed to their actual ability) has Lambos at 15th, but there are many who see him going far later. While we hope the Flyers will have traded this selection for an impact player, if they hold onto the pick Lambos wouldn’t be an impossible selection.
We’ll also make one addition to the poll:
Nikita Chibrikov, RW, SVA (VHL)
Chibrikov impressed early at the junior level this season, earning a quick promotion to playing versus men where he held his own at the VHL and KHL levels and making an appearance with Russia’s senior team. He was also a top scorer at the U18 worlds with 13 points in seven games. He’s undersized and not an amazing skater for his size, but he’s done well versus pros because of his tremendous playmaking ability and his ability to win battles despite his size. He can make slick one-on-one plays, creative plays under pressure and find seams consistently. He’s physical and responsible defensively. He could be a more explosive skater ideally, but the other elements of his game pop. In a sentence, Chibrikov projects as a top-six forward who will be on an NHL power play. – Corey Pronman, The Athletic
2021 BSH Community Draft Board
- Owen Power — D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
- Matthew Beniers — C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
- Brandt Clarke — D, Nove Zamky (Slovakia)
- Dylan Guenther — LW/RW, Edmonton (WHL)
- William Eklund — C/LW, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)
- Luke Hughes — D, US NTDP (USHL) and US National U18 (USDP)
- Simon Edvinsson — D, Frölunda HC J20 / J20 Nationell – 21/22
- Kent Johnson — D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
- Aatu Räty — C, Kärpät U20 and Kärpät (Liiga)
- Jesper Wallstedt — G, Luleå (SHL)
- Mason McTavish — C, EHC Olten (SL)
- Cole Sillinger — C/LW, Sioux (USHL)
- Chaz Lucius — C, US NTDP (USHL) and US National U18 (USDP)
- Fabian Lysell — LW/RW, Luleå HF (SHL)
- Carson Lambos — D, JYP U20 (U20 SM-sarja)