Jimmy Lambert – From Strength to Strength – Written by Don Klepp
In a recent phone conversation, Jimmy Lambert indicated that he’s had “quite an eventful year,” a year that has included big games, participation in the Calgary Flames’ 2018 development camp, and being part of an intense 2019 New York Islanders’ development camp.
On a Michigan Wolverines hockey team that included 10 freshmen, Jimmy had ample opportunity to showcase his skills and to develop aspects of his game. “It was a big step from junior to college,” he says. “Players are bigger, faster, and stronger. Also, you have less time to make plays. In the defensive zone, for example, you have a split second to make a decision with the puck. I had to improve my positioning, to be on the defensive side of the puck and as a winger, I had to work on my clearances off the boards.”
He adds that “the more chances you have to exit the zone, the more chances you have to play offence. It took me a little longer than I would have liked to figure out all the details required at this level, but once I did, I was able to contribute a lot more to the team’s success.”
Jimmy attributes his ability to adjust to the college game not only to the Michigan “professional coaches,” but also to his development with the Vipers. He’s also glad that he spent his 20-year old season in Junior, so that he could build his base and mature physically. Still, he realizes that he has needed to get bigger and stronger to supplement his speed and his skill set.
Last summer at the Flames development camp, the emphasis was on fitness, strength, and nutrition. On the ice, he was able to compare himself to the Flames’ top prospects and see the level he needed to attain. This summer at the Islanders’ camp, Jimmy says that he “was able to better compete at that level. The year at college really helped.”
That college experience was indeed eventful. “One of the highlights,” he says “was playing at Madison Square Gardens and using the Rangers’ dressing room.” He also got to play in the outdoor game against Notre Dame in Notre Dame’s football stadium on January 5. Jimmy had played “plenty of outdoor hockey on rinks in Saskatoon,” so he knew what to expect, but he hadn’t played in front of 23,000 fans before.
He says he will always remember the first game he played at Michigan University’s Yost Ice Arena. “The place was packed, over 6,000 fans and the student section is chanting throughout the game. I always appreciated the Viper fans, but Michigan takes it to another level.” He also was able to attend the football team’s home opener – “the stadium holds 110,000 people and it’s a special atmosphere.”
On the ice, Jimmy has developed his game during each year of Junior and then at the NHL camps and then in a demanding college league. “Our coaches here are very knowledgeable and clear in their expectations,” he says. He credits head coach Mel Pearson as a key figure “in my ongoing chain of learning to play a professional game.” He also points to assistant coach Brian Wiseman, who joined the Edmonton Oilers staff this summer.
Jimmy really enjoyed playing with defenceman Quinn Hughes, who joined the Canucks this spring. “Quinn is an exceptional player. With the Canucks, he did exactly the kinds of things he did with the Wolverines. Watching him day after day, I learned the formula for being a successful pro player.”
After earning an impressive 3.67 GPA in his first year of classes at Michigan, Jimmy is spending most of the summer at the Michigan campus, taking an economics class and training for the upcoming season. He says that his transition to university studies was made “much easier” by taking four classes at Okanagan College in his 20-year-old season.
Secure in his studies and going from strength to strength in his hockey development, Jimmy Lambert is ready to take the next step in his career.