The combine interviews have concluded, the spin bikes have been put away, and the Montréal Canadiens are a month away from being on the clock with the first overall pick in the upcoming NHL draft.

On July 7 and 8, the 85 participants at the NHL combine will hear their names called on the draft stage at the Bell Centre in Montréal. Two of those prospects, defenseman Pavel Mintyukov and forward Brad Lambert, are expected to be taken in the first round and could be available to the Flyers with the fifth overall pick.

Here’s a look at how Mintyukov and Lambert handled an intense combine, from their myriad conversations with clubs to the fitness testing. The first part of the combine roundup featured winger Joakim Kemell and center Marco Kasper.

Lost 2020-21 season ‘helped’ Mintyukov

Russian defenseman Mintyukov capped off a busy week of 27 interviews at the combine with top-25 performances in four fitness tests: VO2 test duration (14 minutes), Wingate peak power output (15.7 watts/kg), wingspan (75.5 inches), and pull-ups (13).

Not only did his performance at the combine stand out, but his season with the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit did, too.

Mintyukov, the top-ranked defenseman among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting in the 2022 draft, planned on making the transition from Dynamo Moscow’s system in Russia to the Spirit for the 2020-21 season. However, COVID-19 shut down the OHL and Mintyukov opted to stay in Saginaw with the expectation that play would resume.

The OHL ultimately remained on pause that season, but practicing with the Spirit throughout the year allowed Mintyukov to build trust with his new teammates.

“It really helped last year, just met half of my team last year,” Mintyukov said. “Had a good relationship with coaches, so I think it really helped me.”

Although the Spirit finished with a 24-43-1 record in 2021-22, the offensive-minded, left-handed defenseman produced a walloping 62 points (17 goals, 45 assists) in 67 contests. In hindsight, Mintyukov doesn’t view his lack of games in 2020-21 as a loss. Instead, he said that practice time positioned him for success this year, especially in his ability to make plays at the blue line.

“I think last year helped me, because I was improving my skills, skating, and everything,” Mintyukov said.

Mintyukov models his style of play on that of Tampa Bay Lightning two-way Russian defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, who also played in the OHL.

As the No. 3 OHL defenseman in scoring this season, Mintyukov’s abilities to produce, skate, and make plays make him an attractive prospect. However, he said he believes his most underrated trait is his positioning and his active stick in his defensive game.

Lambert ‘can’t worry’ about draft rankings

Back when he was 15 years and 7 months old, Lambert became the second-youngest player at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup while competing for Finland. He stood out as a youngster in the tournament, scoring a hat trick in Finland’s 6-0 win over Switzerland.

Since then, Lambert learned to deal with the pressure and the expectations of being a highly touted prospect.

“It’s something you have to get used to if want to play at the next level as well,” Lambert said. “So I haven’t really seen it as pressure as much as an opportunity to show everyone what I can do and just go to the rink every day, be a good teammate. Try to improve as a player and as a person.”

But while Lambert shined at the junior level in Finland, posting 38 points (18 goals, 20 assists) in 42 games with HIFK U20 in 2019-20, he struggled to maintain a similar level of productivity at the professional level.

This season, Lambert split time between two Liiga clubs — JYP and Pelicans — notching a total of four goals and eight assists in 49 games at both center and wing.

In Central Scouting’s midseason rankings, Lambert was listed as its No. 5 European skater. He slipped to No. 10 in the final rankings. He’s rated as high as the No. 8 overall skater by Sportsnet and as low as No. 35 by TSN.

However, Lambert doesn’t pay attention to the variety of public opinions regarding his draft stock.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to what team likes you, what team thinks you’re the best fit,” Lambert said. “You can’t worry about that stuff too much, and I had a great time talking to the teams this week games and getting an idea of what they think of me as a player and stuff like that.”

Lambert spoke to 26 teams at the combine, including the New York Islanders, who recently promoted his uncle, Lane Lambert, to head coach. After helping teams get to know him better off the ice early in the week, Lambert finished in the top 25 in three fitness testing categories: VO2 max (56.0 ml/kg/min), VO2 max test duration (13 minutes and five seconds), and in the 5-10-5-yard shuttle (4.6 seconds, left time).

Now, as Lambert sets his sights on the draft, he’s preparing to head to Toronto to pursue his offseason training. He aims to get stronger while he figures out his plan for next season, which could be to play in North America. The Saskatoon Blades (WHL) hold his major-junior rights.

» READ MORE: NHL draft combine: Math quizzes, silly questions and character vetting — inside a prospect’s interview with the Flyers