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NHL Mock Draft 2021: Florida Panthers select Carson Lambos with No. 23 pick

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LBC goes for value with steady Winnipeg Ice defenseman

Winnipeg Ice v Everett Silvertips Photo by Christopher Mast/Getty Images

While I’m a big proponent of picking the Best Player (or Prospect) Available across the NHL Entry Draft board, what I really mean a lot of time is the best forward available, as defensemen are, in my humble opinion, harder to gauge, and usually take longer to develop.

That said, although it pained me a bit to make this particular pick, the value represented by defenseman Carson Lambos was good to pass up with the 23rd pick in the SBN NHL Mock Draft, as the Winnipeg Ice blueliner’s average draft ranking averages out to 15.5.

The smooth-skating Lambos was the second overall pick in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft and appeared in five games with the then Kootenay Ice that season, tallying his first goal in the league.

In 2019-20, he put together a fine rookie season, producing eight goals and 24 assists and +20 rating in 57 games. He also played for Team Canada White at the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge in Medicine Hat and Swift Current, posting five assists in six games, and was named to the tournament All-Star Team.

With this past WHL season delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lambos headed overseas on loan to play for the JYP organization in Finland. He only made two scoreless appearances and got limited ice-time for the big club in Liiga, but he did see plenty of ice time with JYP’s junior squads. Lambos totaled two goals, nine assists and +9 rating in 13 games in the J20 league. He registered three helpers in two games while playing in the J18 League.

Lambos returned to Canada in late February when the WHL season finally got underway. Unfortunately, he played in just two games for the Ice before suffering a season-ending leg injury in the Regina hub. Lambos is expected to make a full recovery.

His skating ability, mature defensive game, and ability to chip in offensively make Lambos an intriguing prospect, especially if he can be had by the Florida Panthers in the 20s.

According to EliteProspects 2021 NHL Draft Guide Lambos is a potent shooter with the skill and instincts to manipulate defenders and improve his shooting location. With and without the puck, he activates from the point, becoming a passing option and a scoring threat. He fakes shots and passes, waits for the defender to commit, then bursts into the space he created. Constant head fakes add another layer of deception.