Saskatoon Blades gamble on player with local ties in CHL import draft

Saskatoon Blades gamble on player with local ties in CHL import draft
WATCH: The Saskatoon Blades are hoping the allure of playing in familiar surroundings will convince their newest import draft pick to join the team next season.

The Saskatoon Blades felt they were playing with house money in this year’s Canadian Hockey League (CHL) import draft, so they decided to gamble on a long shot.

With their only pick, the Blades selected forward Brad Lambert 33rd overall. The challenge now is convincing him to join the team.

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The 16-year-old Lambert is a Finnish-Canadian dual citizen and is considered to be one of the top prospects for the 2022 National Hockey League (NHL) draft. He played minor hockey in Saskatoon before moving to Finland prior to the 2017-18 season.

But the Blades aren’t planning any homecoming parades just yet.

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Lambert is under contract to play in a Finnish men’s league next season and that, along with the fact that his father also coaches hockey in Finland, means the Blades will have a tough time luring him back to Canada.

However, because the team already has two Europeans on its roster in Czech defenceman Radek Kucerik and Slovakian forward Martin Fasko-Rudas — the maximum number CHL teams are allowed to carry — it could use the import draft to take a flyer on a player who may never come.

In fact, the Blades only had a selection at all because Fasko-Rudas is entering his overage season, giving them what amounts to a bonus pick.

Should Lambert, in fact, decide to come to Saskatoon, the Blades would have some decisions to make with their other two Europeans, but for the time being, they’re focused on recruiting their newest draftee, who has loads of star potential.

“We have a great coach in Mitch Love, we’ve got a number of young star players to be surrounded by and it’s a great scenario for him, should he be interested,” Blades president and general manager Colin Priestner said.

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Last season, Lambert racked up 38 points in 42 games with HIFK Helsinki’s Under-20 team. He’s represented Finland internationally at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and the 2019 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

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But his Canadian roots run deep as well, especially in Saskatoon. Lambert’s father Ross and uncle Lane — the latter of whom played in the NHL — are both Blades alumni.

“His grandparents live here, he played minor hockey here. It’s kind of a perfect scenario for us but we know we’re not deluding ourselves into thinking this is an easy recruitment. We know that it’s far from that,” Priestner said.

Time will tell if a third Lambert will don the blue and gold one day but if he does, there will be plenty of eyes on him.

“We know the odds are against us, but hey, we’ve recruited long shots before and that’s my job, to sell our program to everyone we draft and I believe we’ve got an awesome place for anyone to play.”