Is third time charm for Lambert?
by Lucas Aykroyd|28 DEC 2022
Finland's Brad Lambert won World Junior bronze in 2021 and silver in 2022, and now he's looking for gold in the Maritimes in 2023.
photo: Chris Tanouye / IIHF
Brad Lambert grabbed the attention of NHL scouts at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup when he scored three goals in a 6-0 win over Switzerland at age 15. Now, the Lahti-born forward – who celebrated his 19th birthday on 19 December – is aiming to complete a different kind of hat trick at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship.

If Finland captures its first World Junior title since 2019, Lambert will become just the third player in history to own a World Junior gold medal, silver medal, and bronze medal. The other two are Russians: Mikhail Donika and the late Roman Lyashenko (1997-99).

“It would mean a lot, but we’ve got a long way to go,” Lambert said.

Lambert took another step toward that target when he potted Finland’s fifth goal in a 5-2 bounceback win over Slovakia on Tuesday. It was the 185-cm, 83-kg winger’s first goal of this tournament, coming on a slick snipe from the right side off the rush.

“He’s a big part of our team,” said new Finnish head coach Tomi Lamsa. “And he has this experience. This is why I’m thinking that he can help our team. We have a lot of guys who are playing at their first World Juniors. He can give some some experience and he can show a good example.”

Finishing up with three different World Junior medals would be another interesting distinction for a player who has dual Canadian and Finnish citizenship.

His mother is a Finnish flight attendant. During Edmonton’s Stanley Cup glory years, Brad’s father Ross Lambert played for the Oilers’ AHL affiliates in this year’s World Junior host cities: the Moncton Alpines in 1983-84 and the Nova Scotia Oilers in 1984-85. And Brad’s uncle is Lane Lambert, a 283-game NHL journeyman of the 1980s who achieved stardom in Switzerland in the 1990s.

Constantly facing high expectations, the smooth-skating Lambert – already a veteran of 99 Liiga games as a teen – has seen ups and downs in his hockey career. 

Under previous WJC coach Antti Pennanen, Lambert had a respectable four points (1+3=4) for the 2021 bronze medal team in the Edmonton pandemic bubble. Then he came out flying to surpass that total in the first two games (1+4=5) of the December 2021-launched tournament, which unfortunately was wiped out due to Omicron.

In the 2022 World Juniors in August, Lambert struggled. He scored in the 6-1 opening romp over Latvia but never recorded another point, becoming a healthy scratch for the dramatic 3-2 overtime loss to Canada in the gold medal game. 

Once projected as a top-three NHL draft choice for 2022, he instead was taken 30th overall by the Winnipeg Jets in July at Montreal’s Bell Centre. At these World Juniors, he suited up on the top line with captain Oliver Kapanen and Ville Koivunen in the 3-2 overtime loss to Switzerland on Day One,  but versus Slovakia, that plum job was handed to one-timer expert Joakim Kemell.

Still, Lambert persevered with good humour and good faith.

“I felt comfortable,” Lambert said of suiting up alongside centre Topi Ronni (Tappara) and winger Lenni Hameenaho (Assat), both 2004-born World Junior newcomers. “I think the biggest thing is just playing our game and playing fast like we did today, instead of slowing it down. Then it doesn't matter as much what line you’re on. You just get pucks deep. And I’ve got a strong centreman and a skilled other winger there. It’s about making plays as we get more offensive zone time.”

“He's good with the puck,” added Oliver Kapanen, who was named Finland’s Player of the Game against Slovakia. “He can protect the puck and hold the puck. That’s the main thing we want from him. I think he was good today.”

Lambert is getting more used to North American rinks with Winnipeg’s farm team, the Manitoba Moose. As an AHL rookie, he’s scored two goals and an assist in 14 games this season. Now he’s on a collision course in Group B with Team USA rival and Moose teammate Chaz Lucius. The two teens live together in Winnipeg.

“It’s good,” Lucius told “He’s awesome, a really fun guy to be around. Spending basically 24/7 with him, it’s a little weird at first. But we’re best buddies on and off the ice, and he’s a great player and person.”

While Lambert and Lucius don’t generally swap offensive tricks of the hockey trade, they do enjoy squaring off in epic Xbox games of FIFA 23 (EA Sports). So which pro club does each guy favour?

“We both like Paris Saint-Germain,” Lambert chuckled. “[Chaz] is a lot better than I am right now. I haven’t played for that long, but I think I’m getting there. I’ve already got three or four wins on him. I usually lock it down after I get a goal. I'm not great at defensive play in FIFA. So I just try to get all my guys in the box and then I’ve got [Kylian] Mbappe running up top. I’m not a huge football fan, but in FIFA, I like Mbappe because he's got a 97 pace. So I just chuck the ball to him and he runs for it and just goes by everyone. He shoots, he scores!”

Could that set a template for Lambert’s own performance in Moncton and (hopefully) Halifax? Stay tuned.

Lambert’s earliest conceivable opportunity to represent Finland at the Olympics would be at age 22 in Milano Cortina 2026. Of course, he’s got a ton of growing to do as a player before that becomes feasible, seeing that Finland currently reigns as Olympic and world champions.

He did relish the chance to have Hannes Bjorninen – who scored the Olympic gold medal-winning goal in Beijing – as a teammate at the end of the season and into the playoffs with Lahti in 2021-22. The former Pelicans captain, who now plays for the SHL’s Timra, made an impression on Lambert.

“He’s obviously a great player,” Lambert said. “He’s come a long way. You know how hard he works and everything. It’s something you look up to. He really maximizes his potential. Even on off days, he’s at the rink stretching or doing something like that. So he's definitely a good role model in terms of work ethic. Everything he does, he does it to perfection.”

It’s an approach that would serve Lambert and his U20 teammates well as they quest for Finland’s sixth  all-time World Junior gold medal. But right now, his focus is on defeating the tenacious Latvians, whom Finland will battle on Thursday at the Avenir Centre.

“[Latvia] did well against the Americans,” Lambert said prior to Latvia’s 3-2 overtime loss to Switzerland. “You know it's not going to be an easy game. They skate well, they work hard. So we’ve got to outwork them, and then I believe we have all the chances to win. But we need to come out with 100 percent effort.”