Photo courtesy of Vancouver Canucks Twitter
Our first dive into the top 10 is one of the Canucks most intriguing prospects. Kole Lind is only 20 years old and now has one full season of AHL hockey under his belt. He did not have the most amazing year in his first professional season but the future is still bright for the second round pick.
Lind possesses good hands and has impressed at prospects camp early on with his stupendous play and noteworthy camp battles with Quinn Hughes. Corey Pronman of the Athletic weighed in on Lind and the future that he has with the organization:
Top prospect Quinn Hughes helps the #Canucks farm system rank 5th in the NHL according to @coreypronman. He explains what makes the system so strong, and weighs in on Kole Lind, Vasili Podkolzin, and others in the pipeline.
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) September 3, 2019
In keeping with past lists, we’re considering a prospect to be any player who is 25 years of age or younger and who has played less than 25 regular season games at the NHL level. This is a slightly modified and simplified version of the qualifications for the Calder Trophy.
As of the 2018/19 season, both Elias Pettersson and Adam Gaudette have graduated from prospect status.
By The Numbers
Stats provided by EliteProspects
When Kole joined the Kelowna Rockets at the end of their 2014-15 season he was able to contribute in the playoffs on a stacked roster that included future NHLers like Josh Morrissey, Madison Bowey and Leon Draisaitl. I asked Kole what it was like to skate with the WHL Champion Kelowna Rockets at the age of 16, here’s what he had to say:
It’s a little intimidating at first, it was really good for me to get that championship and get that winning pedigree, playing with (those guys) was crazy, you are almost just like a fan at times.
Lind would go on to become the main guy on a strong Kelowna Rockets team and in his draft plus one year he was able to score 39 goals and add 56 assist for 95 points in only 58 games. Lind was one of the final cuts from the Canadian World Junior team that year and you could tell it affected him as he was on a mission when he returned to Kelowna.
Here are Kole’s three goals in his return to Kelowna after being cut by Team Canada.
I remember his return vividly, he scored two goals in the first period and finished the game with a hat trick. His first four games after being cut he played possessed and scored seven goals and added four assists in that span. Kole wants to take that type of tenacity into this upcoming season in Utica:
“I’ve prepared a lot better this summer, it kind of sucked this year, I got injured right at the beginning of the season so all my summer training that I worked at all summer kind of died off because of the injury that I was almost off for two months with. There’s always going to be ups and downs in your career and this is kind of just a stepping stone for me and a learning curve.”
Obviously the injury at the start of the year would put a damper on Kole’s first professional season but I asked him if he has any goals heading into 2019-20, he says that he does:
“I definitely want to put up good numbers this year, be able to produce and show that I can produce. The one thing I want to do is to just be confident in myself and in my abilities because I’ve worked very hard this summer and I just want to be able to show what I can do and be confident doing it as well.”
Confidence is key and after a year of learning what the AHL is like, Kole will want to take a step this season and be a solid contributor on a Comets team that will likely be much stronger from top to bottom, so I asked Kole what he learned the most from his first AHL season.
“Living on your own for the first time is a big change and playing against men is a big change. The time and space (is different) after getting used to junior and then (the AHL) where everyone is that much quicker and that much smarter. I think there were a lot of things that I took from last year. The biggest thing this summer I’ve been working on is moving my feet and working on my power skating. I thought I was a little bit slow out there to be honest with ya. I think that was big thing for me, just getting up to speed out there.”
According to Jeremy Davis’ projections, Kole Lind still has a good shot of making the NHL and with a bounce back season as a 21 year old we could see these percentages go up even more.
The problem for Lind going forward is whether or not his elite skill at the junior level can translate to success in the professional game. Many players can thrive in their draft plus one season in major junior but fail to continue their success when it comes to being a pro. Kole may have to change his game a bit to become more of a middle six winger instead of a top line scorer, but just from watching the way he enjoyed contact and was tenacious on forechecks, I don’t believe that the transition will be that difficult for him.
The organization’s goal for Lind should be to contribute to a Canucks team when they are hoping to be contenders, adding players like Woo, Podkolzin, Höglander and potentially Lind would be a great boost for the Canucks depth in a couple seasons when they are on the verge of competing for more than just a playoff spot.
He may not make a huge difference on the Vancouver Canucks this season but I would expect his role to grow in Utica. Some powerplay time would not hurt him in getting his scoring touch back. Depending on Trent Cull’s vision for the team, Lind could find some time in the top six but with the additions and returning players he will not be gifted anything and will be forced to earn a spot on the Comets top lines.
Lind is so close, yet still far away from being an NHL regular but a big year in Utica would likely shoot him higher than 10 on our rankings.
I’d love to read what you think, is Lind going to be in the top six this year for Utica or is he still another year of development away from being in that role?