The game of hockey is evolving, and the training of players has evolved with it.
It is becoming a game that requires more speed and skill, rather than just brute strength. The typical hockey player used to be described as big, tough and toothless, but this has now morphed into fast, finesse and flash.
With the top players in hockey being Connor McDavid, Nathan Mackinnon and Sidney Crosby, the importance of speed in particular is paramount.
Just ask 16-year-old Winnipeg-born defenceman Carson Lambos.
Lambos is currently a rookie defenceman for the Winnipeg Ice of the Western Hockey League (WHL).
Taken second overall in the 2018 WHL bantam draft, expectations were high for the local blueliner, and early on he is having an exceptional season. Lambos gives credit for this to his previous teammates.
“Taking the step into the WHL was made possible because I have been able to play with some really experienced players,” Lambos said.
“Learning from those guys made the step up so much smoother.”
Lambos’s game has developed quickly over the course of his short junior hockey career because of his skating, skill and strength.
The game of hockey is played at a fast pace and being an exceptional skater will help you in different situations, something the rookie defenceman believes is extremely important.
“The most important skill to work on is the skating,” Lambos said.
“Everybody at this level [is a] fast and strong skater so in order to have success you have to be able to skate with the pace of play at this level. Things like defending, gap control and joining the rush on offence gets easier the better you skate.”
Being a faster, stronger skater gives the player the most important tool to be able to play the game at the highest level.
This speed is nothing, though, without the skill to actually play a position effectively. Skill gives the player the ability to make plays at top speed, and the faster the game, the more skill is required. This includes shooting and stick handling, both vital in order to produce goals.
With 11 points — four goals and seven assists — through 20 games with the Ice this season, Lambos has shown he has the skill to go along with his speed. Those 11 points leave Lambos tied for eighth in team scoring and second among Ice defenders — even better considering his status as a rookie.
With his development and production, the Winnipegger is building toward a strong placement when NHL clubs come calling. Lambos is currently ranked 13th overall for the 2021 NHL entry draft
The transition to the WHL can be difficult for any player. Coming into the league at age 16, rookies are often faced with young men — some as old as 21 — who are more physically developed than they are, so hitting the gym and bulking up was important for Lambos.
“Getting stronger in the gym is really important,” Lambos said.
“Playing against some older guys, working out helps me physically battle and compete with them. Power from skating and lots of conditioning comes from the gym.”