Taken with the 33rd overall pick at the 2017 NHl Entry Draft, Kole Lind returned to the Kelowna Rockets and hit the ground running. Fans were excited to see his production, tenacity, and consistency throughout the season. The heady Lind looked to be an elite player at the WHL level this season and played so well that he earned himself an invite to Team Canada’s World Junior Selection Camp.
Ultimately, he was unable to make the team but it was still an impressive sign for a player who had never represented Canada in his junior career.
Canucks GM Jim Benning asked the now infamous question on the 2017 draft floor:
Well, the Canucks took him early on day 2 and the Shaunavon native checks in as the 6th best prospect in the organization.
Kole Lind 2017-18 WHL Statistics
Lind set new career highs in goals and points this past season and was only one assist shy of tying his mark from the previous campaign. He followed that up with 8 points (3-5-8) in the four-game playoff sweep loss to Tri-City. There had been concern that he was stymied in the previous year’s post-season but this year he was able to take that next step and be dominant in the second season despite the Rockets failing to win a single game.
Lind finished the season ranked fourth in primary points (84) in the entire WHL, and was second in that same peer group in primary points per game played. His point-per-game rate of 1.64 points per game put him 6th in the WHL and second among 2017 draft picks in the Dub.
With the early end to his season, Lind headed to the Utica Comets on an amateur try-out contract where he appeared in six regular season games and posted one assist.
Some encouraging signs from Lind under the pGPS microscope – a high success rate for a CHL player and a fairly productive cohort with XPR of 44.3 points. There is a wide spread of names and careers there but still some interesting names in that group.
The Canucks’ 2nd pick of the 2017 draft is a well-rounded player who has an impressive offensive toolbox that keeps opponents on their toes. His calling cards are his hockey IQ and his play-making abilities but his shot has serious pep and accuracy that he able to beat goalies cleanly. There were quite a few times where the speed and accuracy of his shot left a sense of ‘wow’, and although he always had a decent shot, it wasn’t there last year.
In terms of a reading of the play and hockey IQ, two things stand out about Kole Lind on the ice. The first being his elusiveness on the ice when engaging his opponents. It’s something that stood out last season and continued throughout this campaign. His ability to just ‘appear’ on an opponent and rush their decision or slipping in between defenders when his teammate has the puck.
Another aspect is his puck distribution skills – able to thread that pass to his teammate in stride or in the gap in coverage. With 57 assists last year and then another 56 assists this year and then the bevy of primary points, it’s a clear indicator that Lind is a driver of offence whenever he is on the ice. It was readily apparent as the puck went through him before getting to his centre or another winger.
Lind and 2018 Draft Eligible Kyle Topping played together quite a bit this season and the results were encouraging. Jeremy Davis had Topping as the 46th ranked prospect in the 2018 Draft Class.
From a goals for percentage, with the exception of Libor Zabransky, Lind made almost every one of his most regular linemates better.
After following the Kelowna Rockets quite closely this season, Lind’s tenacity and willingness to ‘get under the skin’ of his opponents was something that showed itself. Regularly he’d score a goal and give an earful to the opposing bench. Combine that with his willingness to hound his opponents and it’s no wonder some teams started getting feisty with the Rockets top player. That feistiness is something that will hopefully continue and be channeled into effective ways to help the team.
From speaking with some other scouts around the league, that chip on the shoulder mentality aura to Lind was something that a few teams found intriguing, Canucks included. An example of this is after being cut from Team Canada, he was playing like a man possessed for a few weeks.
In the Petrus Palmu profile, Jackson referenced the reliance on data on the 2017 draft class and Kole Lind was a player who popped off the page at the 33rd overall pick. Getting that value in the 2nd round is a good way to boost the prospect pool.
Lind was a good bet at 41.2% when the Canucks took him with the 33rd overall pick this past summer and the increase 49.5% in a step in the right direction. Under this lens, it’s basically a 50/50 shot that the Canucks get a player out of Lind and you can’t ask for better odds than that at that point in the draft.
(As a side note, the 8.6% for his small sample size in the AHL is nothing to be concerned about.)
If there is one area that Lind can work on, it’s to be consistent on a shift by shift basis. His consistent scoring over the course of the season was an impressive feat but there were a few nights that he wasn’t noticeable for 59 minutes of the game and then all of a sudden pots a goal or an assist and the points kept piling up. This is always a hard thing to ask of a young player, but it is something that will allow him to take the next step. With that being said, he only had seven games where he didn’t register a point.
There are some minors quibbles like his two-step quickness and overall strength but both should improve as he continues to mature as an adult and as a professional. The foundations for both are there, it will just take time.
That next step will start next year as he heads to the Utica Comets to begin his professional career. The six games with Utica that he did see over the last few weeks of the season was a good measuring stick for him to see what he needs to work on over the summer. He will need to improve his speed, strength and consistency to make an impact at that level and position himself for a possible NHL career.
Lind still has a ways to go to make the Canucks but he has done everything that he can at the WHL level to be ready to make the move to the AHL next season.
There has been a lot of praise for the Canucks 2017 draft class and Lind is a huge part of that. His underlying numbers were extremely encouraging and the eye test checks out. Now, it’s just a matter of waiting to see if he can continue his upward trajectory.