PB Sports Person of the Year: From Dodge County to the NHL Draft, Brody Lamb had a year to remember
Brody Lamb led the Dodge County boys hockey team to new heights. Now, the University of Minnesota commit and New York Rangers draft pick is moved on to the USHL as he continues to chase his hockey dreams.
Jeff Lamb had planned to spend the night of Dec. 18 in Green Bay, then drive back to his home near Byron the next day.
But after the Green Bay Gamblers lost a tight 3-2 game against Muskegon (Mich.), Jeff’s son, Brody, just wanted to get on the road. It had been more than four months since Brody — now a star forward for the United States Hockey League team in Green Bay — had been home, in southeastern Minnesota.
“Brody didn’t get out of the locker room until 10:15 or so that night after the game,” Jeff Lamb said, “but he had said that morning that he wanted to get home. He didn’t want to wait until the next day.”
So, the Lambs set out from Green Bay after the game and rolled through Rochester at approximately 3 a.m.
“Some of Brody’s buddies were having a sleepover,” Jeff Lamb said. “He was trying to get me to drop him off at their house at 3 in the morning.”
Indeed, as much as Brody Lamb’s 2021 was a whirlwind of one hockey accolade and accomplishment after another, there’s still no place like home for the Byron native and former Dodge County star forward. And the long drive with his dad could’ve been a time of reflection on those on-ice accomplishments, instead it was just a time for a dad and son to reconnect.
“He and I talked during that five hours more than we have, probably since he went to Green Bay,” Jeff Lamb said. “We talked about everything. We talked about savings and finance, and things I didn’t even know were on his radar. It was kind of nice, just to have some time with my son again.”
Free time to spend with family has been rare for Brody Lamb over the past year.
From leading his high school team to the Class A state tournament — The Tourney, the pinnacle for a high school hockey player in Minnesota — for the first time in program history, to being named Minnesota’s AP Boys Hockey Player of the Year, to committing to play for the University of Minnesota, to being chosen in the fourth round of the 2021 NHL Draft by the New York Rangers, to joining Green Bay on a full-time basis as a high school senior, it’s been a whirlwind year for Lamb. He has become the face of the Dodge County hockey program. He’s the name that hockey followers across the state — and now across the country — connect to it instantly.
For all of the fortune that Lamb’s hard work brought to him, his teammates and friends, and his high school program in 2021, Lamb is the Post Bulletin Sports Person of the Year.
“He’s a great guy on and off the ice,” said current Dodge County senior forward and captain Gavin Giesler, who played on teams with Lamb from the time they both started organized hockey in Dodge County. “He has always been there for me and our friends when we’ve needed him. He’s always going to be the guy who gets you to play your best hockey and push you to be the best you can be.
“I remember in practice last year, if I slacked even a little bit, he’d let me hear it.”
Looking back, Lamb’s lifelong friends could see something special in him, even from an early age. The now 6-feet-1, 170-pounder, had a different motor, a different skill set than many in his age group. He still does.
“He was definitely the most competitive player out there,” said Matt Donovan, a senior at Kasson-Mantorville, who was Lamb’s teammate and linemate since their earliest days on the ice. “He hated to lose more than anybody. He was definitely a different (type of) player.”
It wasn’t long before Lamb was known state-wide among hockey followers. He won the 2017 Wiz Wyatt Award, given to Minnesota’s youth Player of the Year. He helped Dodge County reach the Bantam A state tournament in the spring of 2019 for the first time, going 39-10-4.
The following season, that group moved up to varsity hockey and led the Wildcats to 20 wins and their first-ever No. 1 seed in the Section 1A playoffs.
“It’s been awesome to watch him grow up and continue on to the next levels and continue to dominate,” Giesler said. “We played together from PeeWees on up. I remember, as a young kid, almost every time he touched the puck it was a goal. We’d pass it to him, watch him go through five guys and score. We knew he’d be a special player from a young age. He just had that next level that not a lot of kids have.”
Following his first varsity season, in 2019-20, Lamb had the opportunity to leave high school hockey for the USHL. Yet, even after posting 49 goals and 72 points in 24 games, he made a decision that isn't easy for many rising high school players to make.
All of those friendships, the bonds built with friends and teammates over the course of a decade — and the idea of leading Dodge County to a state tournament — kept tugging at him. So he chose to stay home and play his junior year with his friends and with Dodge County.
“That was the whole reason I came back,” he said, “was to be with that group of boys. We knew we had a chance of going somewhere, making it far, so that was really special.
“That group of guys is so super close, and we’ve all stayed in touch, which makes that special, too.”
A memorable run with Wildcats
The decision worked out just as Lamb and his teammates had envisioned — except for a global pandemic being thrown in the mix. Once the 2020-21 season was able to begin, it was clear Lamb and the Wildcats hadn’t skipped a beat. They went 19-4-1, won the Section 1A championship and advanced to the state tournament — at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, the home of the Minnesota Wild — for the first time in program history. They beat Hermantown and Little Falls to reach the state title game, before falling to a loaded Gentry Academy team.
“Just going into the X for the first time (as a player), it was a surreal moment,” Lamb said. “Being part of a state tournament, being in the hotel with the guys. I was (rooming) with (Easton) Hammill and Giesler and Donovan, who are some of my best friends on the team. We’ve been buddies forever. That’s a great memory, too.”
Lamb has had little time to savor those memories. As for most star hockey players at 18 years old, he has moved quickly from one chapter to the next. He played 11 games with Green Bay after Dodge County’s state tournament run ended last spring. Then he spent a July Saturday afternoon watching NHL Network with his friends, waiting for his name to scroll across the screen. It did, in the fourth round, the Rangers making him the first Dodge County player ever to be drafted, just as he became the first Dodge County boys player to commit to play for the home-state Gophers.
“Just his no-quit, love-to-compete attitude will take him a long way,” Dodge County head coach Nick Worden said. “He has a tremendous amount of skill. From talking to him and his dad, the coaches with the Rangers and the Gophers, they’re all talking about little critiques in his game, to be able to play both ways and use his body properly. Little things that he’s adapted really well to.
“He started really well this year, struggled for a little bit, but now he’s playing really good hockey again. Seeing him battle through that and come back has been really good for him.”
In hindsight, it was almost a head-spinning couple of years for Lamb and his family, going from playing in a Bantam state tournament in the spring of 2019 to, just more than two years later, being an NHL Draft pick.
“I think I’m getting more confident in my game now, just having played more games in the USHL,” said Lamb, who has 12 points in 24 games, including four points in his past four games. “Something to focus on is winning battles, battling in the corners more. That’s something I need to work on, but I feel pretty good with my game.”
And maybe by the next long car ride with his dad, Lamb will have more hockey accolades to discuss.
“It’s a fun brand of hockey,” Jeff Lamb said of the USHL. “I’m excited to see him chase his passion and his dream. I’m proud of the fact that he grew up playing in a small association, a small-town atmosphere, and still reached his goals.
“He’ll have those memories forever and made lasting friendships with his teammates and friends. Now it’s time to turn the page to the next chapter and hopefully it’s an exciting one as well.”