Dodge County Ice Arena is a long way from Madison Square Garden.
And Brody Lamb knows that Minnesota high school hockey is a long way from the NHL.
Make no mistake, Lamb understands exactly what he needs to work on, and what he needs to prove this coming season to his future college and professional coaches. He wants to add weight and muscle. He wants his first couple of steps to be faster and more efficient. He wants to prove that he can be a consistent scorer and playmaker at higher levels.
But still, there have been moments over the past three days when Lamb can’t help but to think about what it might be like to one day play in one of the most famous arenas in the world. He has work to do, a path to follow, but he and the New York Rangers are hopeful that his path ends up at Madison Square Garden.
“They’re an Original 6 team,” Lamb said Sunday, a day after the Rangers made him the 104th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, selecting the Byron native and Dodge County standout with the eighth pick of the fourth round. “They have a great atmosphere every game. The fans really love the team and Madison Square Garden would be a sick place to play. The support they have … the fans are super passionate.”
All of that is motivation for the 17-year-old Lamb, who became the first player from the Dodge County program to become an NHL Draft pick.
Lamb’s path started in Dodge County, where he helped the Wildcats’ Bantam A team reach a state tournament in the spring of 2019. Last spring, Lamb helped the Wildcats high school team get to the Class A state championship game at the Xcel Energy Center. He finished his junior season of high school hockey with state-leading totals of 52 goals and 87 points. In 48 career games as a high school player, he had 101 goals, 58 assists and 159 points (an average of a remarkable 3.31 points per game).
“He’s only 17, hasn’t really fully come into his body yet,” Dodge County head coach Nick Worden said. “His upside is tremendous. That’s the most exciting part. His hockey IQ is high, that’s a hard thing to teach. It’s something he has and has worked hard to improve.”
He was named the Minnesota Associated Press Player of the Year this past spring, an honor that is hard to come by as an outstate player from south of the Twin Cities. His play in the state tournament likely cemented that honor; he scored six goals in a state quarterfinal win against Hermantown, added a hat trick in the semifinals against Little Falls, then scored the Wildcats’ lone goal in the state title game against Gentry Academy.
Still, he said, it wasn’t until the past year or two that he truly believed he had a chance to be an NHL Draft pick.
“Honestly it was pretty recently,” Lamb said. “When I got drafted in the USHL it woke me up a little bit. Obviously, it’s not to that NHL caliber yet, but once I started getting calls from more colleges and when I made my commitment (to Minnesota) I realized that it’s the level right below pro hockey.”
On to the USHL
The next stop on Lamb’s journey to a professional career begins in September, when he reports to the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League. He’ll spend most of his senior year in Green Bay, taking his classes online while playing in the top junior hockey league in the country.
It’s possible that the University of Minnesota commit could join the Gophers as soon as the fall of 2022, as a true freshman.
Coincidentally, while Lamb is the first player ever drafted from the Dodge County program, he is the second player from Byron to be drafted, joining former Rochester Lourdes and University of Minnesota standout defenseman Jake Taylor. Taylor took the same path as Lamb; he was drafted by the Rangers in Round 6 in 2002, played for Green Bay in the USHL, then played for the Gophers before playing six seasons of high-level minor-league hockey.
After being drafted on Saturday afternoon, Lamb said his phone call with the Rangers was brief, approximately a minute long, but they gave him an idea of things they’d like him to work on in the next few years.
“The main thing is putting on weight, muscle weight,” Lamb said. “(Also) learning how to score at a higher level, because obviously it’ll be different than high school hockey, the speed of the game. And making quick strides; they like my stride once I get going, but want the first couple of strides to be quicker.”
Lamb and close to 10 of his friends sat in his family’s living room in Byron Saturday afternoon, watching the draft and waiting for his name to flash up on the TV screen. Once it did, and as soon as he got off the phone with the Rangers, the group of buddies celebrated by finding a local pond to go swimming in. There were hugs, high-fives and a lot of energy that needed to be released.
“It was very exciting,” the 6-foot, 165-pound Lamb said. “It was surreal right away, kind of in shock that I actually got drafted. A little later I realized it’s real. … (The Rangers) said they liked my game in high school and think it will translate well to the USHL.”
And, of course, they hope one day it translates to playing at Madison Square Garden in front of 18,000 fans.
“It’s weird to think that some guys in this draft will be in the NHL next year and I still have a year of high school,” Lamb said, “but we all have our own paths.”