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Prospects Report

Carson Lambos could crack the top-ten

by McKeen's Hockey
Updated On: March 31, 2021, 12:36 pm ET

Last week’s column focused entirely on the NCAA playdowns and Frozen Four tournament and primarily affiliated prospects in a lengthy article by Ryan Wagman. Ryan returns this week with a focus on 2021 NHL Draft eligible players that will be appearing in the BioSteel All-American game. It is certain to be a much-watched game by the scouting community where peer to peer assessment has been in shorter supply than most seasons. The game itself should be a good one with the players keyed up to make an impression. Wagman profiles some key players to watch and a sleeper who could surprise and raise his draft stock.

Marco Bombino has had a chance to watch 2021 NHL Draft eligible Canadian Carson Lambos continue his development in Finland, after embarking overseas when the WHL season was up in the air back in the fall. Lambos has recently returned home to Canada with the resumption of league play and is once again skating with the Winnipeg Ice. He was ranked #11 on our initial ranking for the draft and Marco provides a detailed look at his game. Links to previous profiles we have done in this space for other 2021 NHL Draft eligibles can be found following the profile.

The McKeen’s team are scouting and writing about prospects all season long and provide in-depth reports on our website: www.mckeenshockey.com

Prospects in the News: BioSteel All-American Game Preview, April 7th, 2021

By Ryan Wagman

One week from Wednesday – April 7 – the annual BioSteel All-American Game will take place. In years past, the league ran a more traditional All-Star, or Top Prospect game, more similar to the CHL Top Prospect game, with two rosters of players selected with input from NHL clubs/scouts. The venue would change each year. Most notably, the USNTDP players would not be included.

Even though the USHL has improved in terms of the strength of talent up and down the league, it never got to the point where you could get two full rosters of draft-eligible prospects of note without using the USNTDP. So last year the league debuted the new format, wherein the USNTDP U18 squad would play against an All-Star squad of draft eligible from the rest of the league. In a nod to the old All-America game that would precede the season, the USHL All Star team is limited to American players only.

Last year’s event was a bit of a white washing. Played in Plymouth, Michigan. At the home arena of the USNTDP, the U18s took the USHL All Stars to the woodshed, winning by a 6-1 final score. The USHL team, loaded with an all-Chicago Steel top line, couldn’t get anything going. On the bright side, of the All-Star team’s 18 skaters, 14 were drafted last fall. Compare to only 11 skater members (plus one goalie) of the USNTDP squad. In fairness to the U18s, two of their skaters were late birthday 2002’s, who weren’t eligible for the 2020 draft. One of those, Matthew Beniers, was a star for Team USA at the WJC this year and as a freshman at Michigan. The other, Hunter Strand, stayed in the USHL for his draft year, and will play in the BioSteel game once again, this time for the All-Star squad.

Before I list some key players to watch, note that I will not be including goalies. The U18 goalies will not be drafted. One, Kaiden Mbereko, is only 5-11”, and has never performed at the level that other (relatively) short goalies who get drafted have. His current .884 save percentage is not making anyone confuse him with the likes of Dustin Wolf, or Michael DiPietro. The other U18 goalie, Gibson Homer (awesome name) was born in late December 2003, so won’t be draft eligible until 2022. As for the All-Star team goalies, this simply is not a good year for netminders in the USHL. The best save percentage for a draft eligible goalie in the league as of this writing is .897, owned by Green Bay’s Matt Davis. Unfortunately, he isn’t an American. So, the league extended invites to two second time eligible netminders, Remington Keopple of Des Moines, and Colin Purcell or Youngstown. What these two lack in numbers, they kind of make up with NHL size, especially Purcell. In short, I don’t expect much from any of the draft eligible netminders and won’t make them a focal point of this review, or of my observations when I attend the game next week.

The other note I want to make is that the USNTDP squad has lately been hit by a number of injuries and the roster that plays in the game may be different from their “regular” roster. They could call in older ringers from various AAA programs around the nation, as they sometimes do, or call up some of the better performers from the U17 squad, which I feel is more likely. We know for sure that Luke Hughes (brother of Jack and Quinn) is out, as it has been reported that a lower-body injury recently sustained has put an early end to is draft year. Unfortunately, he would have been the top prospect in this game.

I also want to mention a few top draft eligibles in the USHL who are ineligible for this game as they are not Americans. There are usually more who fall through this crack, but Chicago defenseman Jack Bar and Omaha winger Ayrton Martino would have been BioSteel Game locks if they had different passports. Youngstown winger Cole Burtch and Sioux City center Justin Hryckowian also would have been strongly considered.

In his absence, I will introduce you all to the three best players currently on the two rosters to pay extra attention to if you can watch the game, plus one more sleeper to keep an eye on.

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USNTDP

Chaz Lucius, C

2020-21 USNTDP Juniors, USHL 9GP-11G-5A-16PTS

Lucius missed much of the first half of the season with injury, but has been brilliant since returning, with 11 goals in his first nine games. Lucius does most of his best work in the slot of the offensive zone, scoring most of his goals from in tight. He has a knack for finding himself a little bit of space to maneuver in the home plate area and get his stick down. For the most part, the goals aren’t of the fancy type, just a matter of getting loose and releasing the shot quickly. He has good skill which he can demonstrate in motion, but he is more likely to score without making you sit up and take notice. Overall, he is trending towards being selected late in the first round.

Sasha Pastujov, RW

2020-21 USNTDP Juniors, USHL 15GP-9G-16A-26PTS

2020-21 U.S. National U18 Team 31GP-22G-29A-51PTS

Despite having missed around a quarter of the USHL schedule, this is the top scorer – by a lot! - among the U18s, Pastujov, whose older brothers Michael and Nick both preceded him in the program, suffers from the same deficiency as his siblings; he is a subpar skater. His feet are heavy, and he lacks much jump. But Sasha bests his brothers through superior offensive tools. His hands are very impressive, and he has the instincts – particularly offensively – to overcome his relative lack of quickness. Pastujov sticks close to the right side of the offensive zone and likes to shoot from near the faceoff dot. Watch to see how often he can shake free to get his hard shot off.

Aidan Hreschuk, D

2020-21 USNTDP Juniors, USHL 21GP-3G-13A-16PTS

2020-21 U.S. National U18 Team 41GP-5G-27A-32PTS

With Hughes out, the (young) man to watch among the USNTDP blueline crew is Aidan Hreschuk. Regularly playing over 20 minutes per game, he contributes in all three zones. He is strong along the boards, uses his stick very well to help make up for his slightly undersized stature. His skating is more smooth than fast, but he gets where he needs to. He likes to jump up to aid the attack as well and give the defense more to think about, although most of his shots come from closer to the blueline. His reliability and ability to drive the play could turn him into a second rounder.

Sleeper – Sean Behrens, D

2020-21 USNTDP Juniors, USHL 20GP-4G-14A-18PTS

2020-21 U.S. National U18 Team 36GP-6G-25A-31PTS

It seems that every USNTDP squad has a small blueliner who has a good power play game. That’s Behrens. Listed at 5-9”, 175, he can be a surprisingly tough customer off the puck. A fun, high energy guy whose draft stock is tied to convincing evaluators that he will be able to contribute at even strength, too.

USHL All Stars

Matt Coronato, C/RW, Chicago Steel

2020-21 Chicago Steel, USHL 43GP-39G-33A-72PTS

The number scorer in the league with 72 points – including a league high 39 goals in 43 games – Coronato is, for my money, the top draft pick in this game without Hughes. He is an incredible skater, who loves to cycle with the puck, waiting patiently for a passing or shooting lane to open up. Coronato isn’t one to spend too much time in the dirty areas, so his skill moves are easier to notice in open ice. He doesn’t need skilled linemates to help him produce, even though he generally plays with a few on Chicago, and will be a top line player at this game.

Cole Sillinger, LW, Sioux Falls Stampede

2020-21 Sioux Falls Stampede, USHL 26GP-21G-20A-41PTS

If there is a player in this game who is drafted prior to Coronato, it’ll be Sillinger, who wasn’t even supposed to be in this league before the pandemic ruined many plans. A pure goal scorer, he joined Sioux Falls from Medicine Hat in the WHL after that league was up in the air a few months ago. He has since taken the league by storm, scoring 21 times in his first 26 games. The son of longtime NHLer Mike Sillinger, Cole reads the game very well and is always ready to capitalize when an opportunity presents itself. As great as his scoring prowess is, he is also a gifted playmaker, able to fake one and execute the other with a subtle shift to the blade of his stick. He also stays involved and active off the puck, something that evaluators will like to see even more of as the rest of this season unfolds.

Tristan Broz, C, Fargo Force

2020-21 Fargo Force, USHL 46GP-16G-30A-46

One of the top scorers in the league outside of the Chicago Steel, Broz has had a hand in almost one of three goals scored by the Western Conference leading Force. More of a physical presence than either Coronato or Sillinger, Broz plays is an all-situations center with a plus motor and some jump in his step. His offensive game lacks some of the dynamic elements of the other two listed here, but he is no less effective for that lack, quietly making his linemates more effective.

Sleeper – Jack Peart, D, Fargo Force

2020-21 Fargo Force, USHL 16G-0G-11A-11PTS

2020-21 Grand Rapids High, USHS-MN 18GP-11G-24A-35PTS

A curious case, Peart started his season with Fargo, but left to play for his high school team a few days into 2021 after putting up 11 points in 16 games. He plays with tremendous composure and is a solid if unspectacular skater, a trait which plays up thanks to a strong first few steps. Peart isn’t a dynamic offensive blueline force like some who have recently set the NHL on fire, but his mobility, puck moving and decision making all point to a future top four outcome.

Editors Note: The Carolina Hurricanes are in Chicago to take on the Blackhawks Tuesday at 7:00 pm ET on NBCSN. Livestream the game here.

2021 NHL Draft Prospect – Canadian Lambos makes an impact on the blueline in Finland

By Marco Bombino

Carson Lambos

2020-21 JYP U18, U18 SM-sarja 2GP-0G-3A-3PTS

2020-21 JYP U20, U20 SM-sarja 13GP-2G-9A-11PTS

2020-21 JYP, Liiga 3GP-0G-0A-0PTS

2020-21 Winnipeg Ice 2Gp-0G-0A-0PTS

Carson Lambos joined JYP U20 in October 2020 as the Western Hockey League season was postponed at the time. The 2003 born defenseman from Winnipeg, Canada came to Finland with high expectations. He was the second overall pick in the 2018 WHL Draft and had already made his mark in the league in 2019-20, amassing 32 points in 57 games for the Winnipeg Ice, the sixth most among all U17 skaters. He returned to Winnipeg for the start of the WHL season and has appeared in two games so far.

During his time in JYP's organization, Lambos played 13 games for the U20 team, as well as two games for the pro team in the Liiga and two games for the U18 squad. He logged more than 20 minutes of ice-time per game with the U20 team. He also played on special teams, moreso on the power play.

After watching a large portion of his games in the U20's, I thought Lambos displayed very good tools. On the other hand, I think some parts of his game clearly need work and polishing.

First, let's discuss the positives as there are many of them. Lambos is a smooth skating defenseman with quick feet, very good mobility and strong edges. He has a powerful stride and can skate with the puck out of trouble. Along the offensive blueline he shows shifty and strong footwork. He can jump into the play on the ice and possesses the speed to recover in time. I wouldn't call his skating excellent, but it is definitely an area of strength.

Lambos is alert in his own end. He plays with his head on a swivel and does not get overly puck focused or miss his assignments. He is effective at covering passing lanes and is willing to block shots. He does a good job of boxing out opponents when defending the net front. He has very good physical attributes: he is sturdy, has good balance, does not shy away from contact and uses his strength and length to win space.

I came away impressed with his assertive defending in the neutral zone. He kept his gaps tight, read the game well and took away the middle of the ice. Certain times he could stop opposing rushes well before they reached the offensive blueline. When having time and space, Lambos is a reliable puck mover. He can also carry the puck confidently and attack into open space in front of him. He has a heavy and hard wrist shot with a quick release and gets significant power behind it.

For me, Lambos' decision making was somewhat of an issue during his time in the Finnish U20 league – especially under pressure. There were several moments when he did not move pucks into good spots. He lacked vision. At times he had more time and space to make a play than he seemed to realize and gave the puck up too soon. On some occasions, when he retrieved pucks, his decisions took a little bit too long. He needs to play with more urgency and make quicker choices with the puck in order to be effective at the pro level.  

Lambos was definitely an impact defenseman for JYP U20. The well-rounded defenseman does not seem to have one dominant trait, but his package of strong skating, physicality, puck skills and responsible defensive zone coverage makes him a very interesting prospect. He has a chance to be selected among the first defensemen in the 2021 NHL Draft.

PAST NBC EDGE MCKEEN’S 2021 NHL DRAFT PROSPECT REPORTS – In this weekly column we cover an NHL Draft prospect. Check out what we have written to date here listed by our most recent ranking.

#1 - Matthew Beniers  C, University of Michigan, NCAA, C, 6’1” 175 lbs

#2 – Owen Power, D, University of Michigan, NCAA, C, 6’6” 215 lbs

#3 – Luke Hughes, D, USNTDP U18, D, 6’2” 175 lbs

#4 - Jesper Wallstedt G, Lulea, Sweden, G, 6’3” 200 lbs

#5 – Simon Edvinsson, D, Vasteras, Allvenskan, 6’5”, 200 lbs

#6 - Brandt Clarke, D, Nove Zamky, Slovakia, D, 6’1” 180 lbs

#9 – Aatu Raty, D, Kärpät, Liiga, Finland, 6’2” 185clbs

#10 – William Eklund, LW-C, Djurgårdens IF,SHL, Sweden, 5’10, 175clbs

#11 – Carson Lambos, D, JYP, Finland, 6’0, 200lbs

#12 - Kent Johnston, C, University of Michigan, NCAA, C, 6’1” 170 lbs

McKeen's Hockey

McKeen’s Hockey has been writing about NHL hockey and covering prospects for 25 years. Our team of scouts and analysts are in rinks around the world providing insight into the NHL’s future at mckeenshockey.com.