The Winnipeg ICE have retained the services of star defenceman Carson Lambos for the upcoming 2021-22 Western Hockey League season.
Back on July 23, while surrounded by his parents Steve and Simone, older brother Jonny (a fellow defender for the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips) and grandfather John, the younger of the two Lambos boys watched and listened patiently as the 2021 NHL Entry Draft weaselled its way through the first round.
After being passed over by his hometown Winnipeg Jets with the 18th overall pick, Lambos heard his name called at No. 26 overall by the geographically proximate Minnesota Wild.
“I was pretty surprised that it was Minnesota, but it was definitely a pleasant surprise,” Lambos said following his selection. “You just want to get picked, not by one team more than the other. I think any team that wants you is the team you want to go to. You’re hoping that every team that’s picking is going to take you.”
A physical presence, the 18-year-old put up eight goals and 24 assists for 32 points, which led all WHL rookie defencemen in scoring during the 2019-20 season. His +20 ranking over 57 games was also a very telling statistic on a team that gave up its share of goals.
With the pandemic putting a hold on much activity in North America, Winnipeg moved Lambos to Finland, where he impressed many with his size and skill on the back-end in JYP. He registered three points in two games with the U-18 junior team, before scoring 11 points in 13 games in the U-20 league. Lambos also skated in two games in the Finnish Liiga as well.
“I had to move overseas, which is certainly difficult,” Lambos said. “Being a long way from home, you certainly feel like you’re on an island sometimes and, you know, lonely. It’s definitely hard but I had a lot of great people there and I’m so thankful for my experience. I made a lot of great friends and experienced a different culture, which was great.”
Sadly, an injury cost the big defender the majority of the 2020-21 season with the ICE within the WHL’s Regina Hub. Lambos skated in just one game prior to suffering an injury on Winnipeg’s second date of the calendar.
“Unfortunately my time in the bubble was pretty short,” he said. “Whenever you hear that you’re not going to play the rest of the season, it’s pretty heartbreaking. Definitely some lows, but I think going through something difficult like this, maybe the adversity will make me a stronger person.”
Prior to joining the ICE, Lambos spent his developmental years with RINK Hockey Academy, skating with the U-15 Prep, the Prep and the U-18 AAA teams from 2016-19. He operated at over a point-per-game rate through his RINK career, putting up 58 total goals, 134 points and 147 penalty minutes over a combined 105 regular season and playoff games.
Lambos went down to Minnesota for Wild training camp this early fall and suited up in one game of action on Saturday against the St. Louis Blues. His NHL debut saw 18:51 of icetime, which included 55 seconds of power play time and 38 seconds on the penalty kill. Much like fellow Manitoban youngster Daemon Hunt, Lambos did finish a -2 in the 6-2 loss, but was able to register two shots on goal and a hit in his first taste of NHL action.
Joining Lambos back with the ICE is fellow NHL draftee Connor McClennon. Leading the team in goals last year (14), the Philadelphia Flyers’ 178th overall selection in the 2020 NHL Draft was returned to Winnipeg as well for the upcoming season from Pennsylvania.
The two will certainly be on the opening night roster when the ICE travel to Brandon for the first game of the season on Friday. The Wheat Kings will then go back to Winnipeg the following night for the second game of a home-and-home from the Wayne Fleming Arena. Tickets for both games can be purchased through Ticketmaster.