Jimmy Lambert is shooting hundreds of pucks at NHL goalies like Devyn Dubynk, James Reimer and Eddie Lack at a Kelowna pro camp this week.
“They’re pretty good, you gotta pick your corners to score on them,” chuckled Lambert.
Named Unsung Hero by the Vernon Vipers last year, the ultra-talented 20-year-old Saskatoon product also used his time in the Okanagan to announce that he will be back in the Snakes Den this B.C. Hockey League season. Lambert has de-committed to the NCAA Division 1 Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks.
“I was kind of thinking of returning for another year in Vernon at the end of playoffs,” said Lambert, who compiled 19 goals and 47 points and another 14 points in the playoffs last year. “I thought it was a good decision for me. Everybody’s always in a big rush (to play college) but another year in Vernon will be good for my development.”
The choice to wear No. 23 for another season was enhanced when head coach Dallas Ferguson left Alaska for a similar spot with the Western League Calgary Hitmen.
“When we (his father and him) heard Dallas was leaving Alaska, it put a little doubt in our minds. I think the chance to sign with another school next year will be good for me.”
Vernon’s Jordan Burns, a junior with the Nanooks, also left Alaska for the University of Regina Cougars. He joins fellow Vernon products Zach McPhee and Colton Sparrow.
Rumours persist that the Nanooks hockey program is in jeopardy due to funding issues.
“It’s a huge shot in the arm getting Jimmy back,” said Viper head coach and director of hockey personnel Mark Ferner. “Even before I made the trade for Jordan Sandhu and Keyvan Mokhtari, we were prepared to go without Jags (Jagger Williamson), Jesse (Lansdell) and Jimmy. Now, we have all three guys coming back. Jimmy and Stapes (Brett Stapley) work well together.”
Lambert, who has bulked up to 175 pounds after pulling lumber all summer, said Stapley was one of the first teammates he called with the good news. Lambert is joined at the Kelowna Capital News Centre by NHL shooters Justin Schultz, Andrew Ladd and Tyler Myers.
The Vipers also announced the signings of two young dynamic forwards: Alex Swetlikoff of Kelowna and Josh Prokop of Edmonton.
Swetlikoff, 16, rang up 19 goals and 45 points with Yale Academy Prep in Delta last season. He has a scholarship locked up with the Denver Pioneers for the 2020 season. Prokop, 17, produced 29 goals and 57 points with Northern Alberta X-Treme. He played one for Spruce Grove Saints of the AJHL.
Vernon F Coleton Bilodeau, 17, who got in 10 games with the Snakes last year, has also signed. He pocketed 22 goals and 58 points with the Major Midget Okanagan Rockets.
Vernon F Connor Marritt, 18, has also committed. Marritt registered 12 goals and 31 points with Okanagan Hockey Academy.
The Vipers open a five-game exhibition schedule Friday, Aug. 25 in Salmon Arm against the Silverbacks. Their main camp goes Aug. 10-20.