FOR LAMBOS THE LEARNING NEVER STOPS
At a time when the coronavirus pandemic is constantly forcing us to write plans in pencil, and keep an eraser nearby, Carson Lambos has been able to scratch out a hockey season.
No, it’s not the traditional Western Hockey League campaign he had in mind, but it’s turning out to be something special just the same.
“It was cool. I learned a lot,” said Lambos, a top prospect for ’21 NHL draft, from the comfort of the family home in Winnipeg. “It was a good life experience to move away from home for the first time and see what that’s all about and become a little bit more independent. Of course, it was awesome for hockey, but I learned a lot away from it too”
What the talented Winnipeg ICE defenceman is referring to is a recently-completed four-month stay in hockey-mad Finland.
SAID YES TO JYP (said ‘yip”)
With hockey on hold here, Lambos travelled to Jyvaskyla, 270 kilometers north of Helsinki, back in October and began a stint with JYP Jyvaskyla.
The respected organization has a team in Finland’s top pro league as well as a series of developmental units including a U-20 side that plays in the country’s top junior circuit.
Carson skated in 13 games for the JYP juniors and notched an impressive 11 points.
Then, not long before heading back to Manitoba, Lambos got a taste of the pro game when he skated with JYP’s Liiga team for a few weeks and appeared in two games.
“I just played six or seven minutes each game, “said Lambos who felt he got better each time out. “But, it was definitely a cool experience to practice with pro guys and see what it takes, get a new perspective on hard work. I think I benefited a lot from those couple of weeks.”
Oh and remember earlier when Carson mentioned he learned a lot both on and off-the-ice?
Well, many contributed to that experience but one Finnish family deserves a lot of the credit, the Viitanen’s.
JYP General Manager Mikko Viitanen, his wife Johanna, and their three children billeted Lambos for the four months and helped make it an experience to remember.
FOCUS ON THE ICE
Now Lambos is excited about catching up with his Winnipeg ICE teammates and getting to work in Regina when the ’21 WHL season gets started in just a few weeks.
Currently in quarantine before heading to the Saskatchewan capital, Carson is enjoying Zoom meetings with the ICE and doing basement workouts to stay sharp.
“I’ve been looking forward to this. I think we have a really good group this year, and personally I just want to bring the best I can to the team,” said Lambos before getting into his feelings about the WHL’s 24-game schedule. “I love playing games so much, of course practice is important, but I play to play so when we can bang out so many games so fast it’ll be a lot of fun.”
SETTING A TONE
Last season Lambos was a fixture on the ICE’s top d-pairing and played an important special teams role on his way to topping all WHL rookie defencemen in scoring.
But, despite his youth, Carson is comfortable talking about taking on a leadership role this year and doing what it takes to help young players quickly feel part of the group.
“The most important thing about being a leader, above all I think, is setting a good example. I know that starts on the ice with being a hard worker, but (also) kind of showing the guys that are new to the league – cause we start pretty fast and there’s not much time to learn – work ethic and things like that. I just want to be a leader in that sense and really set the pace.”
While Lambos is chomping at the bit to get the Western Hockey League part of this most unusual season started, and buoyed by his time in Finland, there’s also all the matter of being a top draft prospect to consider.
Scouts, analysts, journalists, bloggers – you name it – there are plenty of opinions on who the top prospects are and where they’ll be taken on draft day. So, how do you keep all of that in perspective?
“I was once told by Travis Hamonic, I was lucky enough to skate with him at a hockey camp, and a piece of advice he told me that really stuck was ‘you’re never as good as they say you are and you’re never as bad as they say you are’,” said Lambos with the maturity of someone twice his 18 years. “So I think that plays a big factor and describes what I’m going through this year pretty accurately so just try to keep a level head.”
In other words, bring on the bubble in Regina!