With the 26th pick in the NHL draft, the Minnesota Wild select Carson Lambos. Not a total shock, Lambos was among Wild beat writer Michael Russo’s three hunches at the time of the pick.
Selected 25th overall, but with the 26th pick due the Arizona Coyote’s forfeiture of pick No. 11, the left-handed defender is described by The Athletic’s Corey Pronman as a smooth skater with excellent edges. His escapability translates to both sides of his game, allowing him to keep up with fast forwards and manage pressure when possessing the puck. He also makes a good first pass, though he’s not considered flashy with the puck - that’s perfectly in the mold of your typical Wild defenseman. It would be fair to consider him a puck-mover, and he projects as a second-pairing defenseman.
Lambos has had a weird year — with the paused WHL season, he headed over to Finland and spent his time split in between three different levels with three different rosters. And when the WHL resumed, he only got two games under his belt due to medical issues. It’s certainly a pick banking on future stability and ability to continue development.
The value for a defenseman in the first round is quite good, relative to the positional run that appeared to occur in the first. Out of 23 skaters in the first round, he was only the sixth defender off the board. If that’s not evidence of a run, then note this: while defender Corson Ceulmans was taken one pick before Lambos, the 15 players taken before Ceulmans were all forwards or goalies. Further evidence of Lambos’s value at 25th off the board is that he was ranked 17th overall by Corey Pronman. Furthermore, his relative youth to this draft class is a plus - not only does this performance come against older players, but so too does his development.
The pick came via trade from Pittsburgh in the Jason Zucker trade. Details of the trade were Zucker in exchange for a first round draft pick, defense prospect Calen Addison, and NHL-er Alex Galchenyuk (to make the money work). The pick was originally supposed to be in 2020 (last year’s draft), with the condition that if Pittsburgh missed the playoffs, the pick would be pushed to 2021. On a fluke, however, the Pens were “eliminated” from the “playoffs” in spite of putting together a strong 2019-2020, and the pick was pushed off to this year.
An extra first-rounder this year gave GM Bill Guerin the flexibility to take high-upside goaltending prospect Jesper Wallstedt with the 20th pick (19th overall) while still grabbing a position player with Pittsburgh’s pick.
Based on Byron Bader’s statistical ranking of prospect pools (HockeyProspecting.com), the Wild came into the draft with the 4th best prospect pool of skaters, which is heavily reliant on the depth of the forward prospects. Only one of Minnesota’s top eight prospects by Bader’s analysis is a defenseman — Calen Addison. Between Marco Rossi and Marat Khusnutdinov alone, the Wild have a better prospect pool at the center position than at defense — yes, that Minnesota Wild.
Ninth-best is Daemon Hunt and 14th is Ryan O’Rourke, both selected in the 2020 entry draft — Guerin’s first as Wild GM. Between the addition of those two and now Lambos, it appears that it appears that Guerin has pivoted to stocking the cupboard on defense. This makes sense given that he addressed the center pool with Rossi and Khusnutdinov early in last year’s draft.
As for Bader’s analysis of Lambos himself, Bader’s model seems to agree with the scouting consensus that this was a safe, low-upside pick.
While he gives Lambos a 43% chance to play 200 NHL games, he’s very low on the player ever developing into a “star.” Bader’s statistical definition of a star is based on points-scoring, so it’s likely that 5% is overly pessimistic in Lambos becoming a star, simply because Lambos’s game will be based around simplicity, puck possession, and effective defense.
Please Note - this story is still developing. Check back in the next few minutes for updates throughout the night.