The Lind Files: Why Kole Lind will be an NHL player sooner than you think
Photo credit:© Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
By Faber2 years ago
The eventual landing spot is the NHL and it won’t be long until we see Kole Lind in a Vancouver Canucks uniform.
The 2017 draft could easily become one of the best in Canucks history if they are able to get another solid NHL player to go along with Elias Pettersson. Jack Rathbone is certainly well on his way to becoming an NHL player, but one of the two second-round picks in that draft could also be destined to bolster the Canucks lineup very soon.
After a letdown rookie season with the Utica Comets, Kole Lind went back to Saskatchewan and worked his ass off. The full story I wrote about Lind’s offseason including quotes from him at training camp is available here.
This year he took a huge leap, playing in every single Utica Comets game and with that was able to have a massive year in terms of his development. It didn’t take long at all as he put up three assists in the first two periods of his season. This was a result of the confidence that came thanks to the offseason work that Lind put in. He worked in a lot more stretching and different training in the offseason and that resulted in Lind being able to stay healthy enough to play in each of Utica’s 61 games; even after being on the receiving end of some bone-rattling events, such as this Brogan Rafferty shot to the face, which unfortunately resulted in a goal.
Negatives: Positioning and Awareness
This kid is tough as nails and he showed that this season. Battling back from what was an injury-riddled season in 2018-19. The Utica Comets fans began to fall in love with this kid and I don’t think it will take long for Canucks fans to do the same once they see the type of player he can be when his confidence is high.
One of the negative I thought I should present is the dangerous situations that Lind finds himself in. It was something I wanted to talk a bit about before we get into the positives.
This was a massive open-ice hit that he took. When I asked Lind about this hit, he agreed that if he were from somewhere other than Saskatchewan, he probably wouldn’t have gotten up from this one.
However, he would return to play after taking the rest of the second period off after this one.
Here’s another big hit on Lind.
At times he does have his head down in some scary positions. In the firstclip where he got destroyed, he does have his head down in open ice and simply does not see the hit coming at all. The second hit is a bit sketchy because he didn’t have possession of the puck but once again does find himself in another dangerous situation.
Here’s another example where Lind had his head down and is just barely able to avoid another massive hit.
Luckily he was able to stay healthy for the entire 2019-20 season but he will need to get better at evaluating his opposition’s positioning to be able to protect himself from getting run over at the NHL level.
The other negative part of Lind’s positioning and awareness is minor but could be something that Canucks coach Travis Green will not be a fan of.
Though Lind is very good at being available for outlet passes, he is often the first forward to leave the zone. He can quickly turn back to defend in his zone after attempting to leave the zone but if this is something consistent at the next level a defensive-minded coach like Travis Green will definitely be having a conversation with Lind about leaving the zone early.
The decision making from Lind to leave the zone can be viewed as a positive as well, but if he is going to be thrown into the Canucks’ lineup in a bottom-six role under Coach Green’s defensive style gameplan, it will have the potential of him being looked at as a player prone to leaving the zone too early.
I liked his ability to recognize when a possible odd-man rush is available and when he links up with defenceman who can make strong outlet passes often results in good scoring chances.
Here’s an example of Lind leaving a bit early but knowing that Olli Juolevi is able to make the high-end outlet passes to make this a scoring chance. At the bottom of the screen, you can see Lind fly through the opposing defencemen and Juolevi makes an excellent bank pass after recognizing Lind streaking through the middle of the ice.
Positives: Puck Possession and Passing
There is one skill that’s very high end in Lind’s game, and that’s his playmaking and ability to assess the ice.
Here’s one of my favourite passes from this past season as he takes the time to assess the rush and makes a nasty pass through the defender’s legs and sets up a tap in for Lukas Jasek.
There needs to be a couple of skills that stick out at the AHL level for you to believe that there’s an NHL future for prospects. Lind makes the perfect pass on so many different occasions and is able to extend plays by using big spaces on the boards to make a pass to an open defenceman all the way over on the other corner of the offensive zone.
He thinks the game as if he’s one or two passes ahead of defenders. It’s almost like a coach designing a play — there is something about Lind’s playmaking that frequently results in him or his linemates getting an easy scoring chance.
What I was expecting from Lind was a power forward type of player who can score goals with his good shot and be all around the net. What I learned is that he is a pass-first winger who plays his best hockey when he is surrounded by talent that he can make better. His passing accuracy is good but the thing that impressed me the most about his playmaking is his ability to make quick decisions to find open ice for his teammates.
At times he is leading passes almost like Drew Brees, putting some air under a long pass.
He knows when a teammate can get position on a defender and come out with possession of the puck. It’s a real treat to see and the fact that he is making those decisions so fast and often, it excites me to see him at the next level because though the defending will undoubtedly be better, as a playmaker, he looks ready to graduate to the NHL.
We saw this with Elias Pettersson in his rookie season and though Lind is much further behind how good Pettersson is at it, you can see Lind makes good passes that can lead to other good passes and ultimately result in scoring chances for his team.
This is one of Lind’s go-to moves, “the spin and dish”. He will draw defenders to him which opens up space for others to have room for scoring chances.
Sometimes he uses the spin move to get himself a scoring opportunity as well. Here are a couple of examples from one game.
In his rookie AHL season Lind was hesitant to pull off these types of moves but as his confidence grew so did his ability to shake a defender. Lind’s ability to make clean zone exits and extend plays in the offensive zone comes from his vision and playmaking prowess.
He was the most consistent passer on the Comets this season and that’s saying a lot with skilled players like Sven Baertschi, Olli Juolevi, Brogan Rafferty and my boy Nikolay Goldobin on the roster.
As a team, the Utica Comets were severely outshot this season. They only controlled 46.12% of the shot share and had a 47.35% Corsi rating. The Comets only outshot their opponent in 23 of their 61 games this season.
He was consistent in creating scoring chances and consistency is a major key why his season was so impressive. Here’s an example of his points through the season. He did not go any longer than three games without a point.
Advanced stats provided by Cody Severtson of The Comets Harvest and PITB.
Lind did a good job of contributing offensively this season, one of the things he does so well is extending offensive zone time. His work on the boards is downright impressive for a young player in a physical league. As previously mentioned, he can find open ice where his teammates can maintain possession. This was especially well done when Lind played alongside Justin Bailey, who is just flat out the fastest player in the AHL.
When Lind extends the play in the offensive zone that concomitantly keeps the puck out of his own zone. This resulted in Lind having the highest Corsi percentage out of the top-15 Comets with the most ice time.
Tracking by Cody Severtson
As I mentioned earlier, Lind is able to have a higher CF% because of his ability to extend plays in the offensive zone. He does a good job of extending possession time in the attacking area but can also retrieve the puck to set up scoring chances for his team.
Lind saw major improvements to his assists column this season. He scored the same amount of goals per game at 5-on-5 but nearly doubled his assists output at even strength.
Though he didn’t see a massive improvement in goals at 5-on-5, he did become a mainstay on the Comets’ first powerplay unit where he ran the bumper position and was able to score some nice deflection goals and did a great job of quickly reacting to rebounds so that he could bury a total of six powerplay goals.
Fact check: I know that six 5-on-5 goals and six powerplay goals don’t add up to 14 total. He had one empty net goal and one 3-on-3 overtime goal to get to 14 on the year.
He found a place on the powerplay where he could be effective and played there most of the season.
His playmaking and vision is definitely his strongest skill but one trait that many Canucks fans will like to see is his high-end motor. He’s a real throwback forechecker, consistently flying up the ice to bang bodies and disrupt as many passing lanes as possible.
Whether it’s aggressively forechecking or skating hard on the backcheck, Lind is constantly moving his feet to be around the puck.
Here’s an example that won’t show up on the scoresheet, but he is the first man in to create pressure on the defender and gets the puck moving around the boards, then he makes a nice little pass to Dylan Blujus that ultimately leads to a nice tip-in by Goldobin on a Jalen Chatfield shot.
I spoke with Utica Comets play by play voice Joe Roberts and here’s what he had to say about Lind’s forechecking:
He is tough and he’s annoying to play against. Kole is kind of like a fly that you just can’t get rid of. You swat your hand, you try to wave your hat at it, you try to do whatever you can and the fly maybe goes away for a second. Then it comes right back. It’s part of his game, he knows it’s something that he’s going to do and he knows that something that he’s going to bring to the table.
This offseason was clearly good for Lind, he bulked up to 185 pounds and his game took a serious jump due to the confidence that he got with the added strength. The way he is going to be successful in the NHL is going to require him to wreak havoc on his opposition.
This Canucks team is the perfect fit for Lind as they have legitimate top-six winger prospects in their system with Nils Höglander and Vasili Podkolzin. When you add those two prospects to a group that already consists of JT Miller, Brock Boeser and potentially/hopefully Tyler Toffoli, you set up your team to have the kind of offensive depth that most teams would envy.
That’s why it’s a perfect situation for Kole Lind. He may not project as a top-six winger but he has the chance to be an effective bottom-six winger who can bring some offence with his high end passing and good feel around the net.
As per Jeremy Davis’ pGPS XLS% chart, Lind seems to fit into the fringe NHL player category but does have a 29% chance of being a bottom-six NHL contributor and a 26% chance of being a top-nine winger.
I think Lind’s fit with this Canucks team could boost the percentage from Jeremy’s research.
There’s no rush on Kole Lind, he fits the bill as a player who can make the jump the NHL and begin as a fourth-line player. If he proves himself in that role then maybe he can work his way into a top-nine winger spot.
My prediction is pretty much that Lind will be kicking at the door next year for the Canucks to call him up. He was just added to the Canucks’ black aces group for the upcoming playoff run and getting a chance to practice with Travis Green and be around NHL players will be extremely valuable for the 21-year-old prospect.
Let’s remember that he is only 21 years old. He may not shock the hockey world like some of the Canucks’ rookie phenoms have in recent years, but his path is one that — though it has taken twist and turns — seems to be on the right track.
I would bet on this kid to make it to the NHL next season at some point.
I don’t want to put a cap on Lind because I think this next season will tell the story about if he can be a top-nine player at the NHL level. If he makes a similar improvement to the one he made last summer then there is no reason to believe that he won’t be Utica’s best forward this fall or winter, or whenever the 2020-21 AHL season commences.
Next season will tell a huge story about what Lind’s future holds. He improved his pGPS this year according to Jeremy Davis’ research.
Lind is at a high point in Jeremy Davis’ research.
He could build off of that next season but will need to relish being the go to guy.
Here’s what Comets play by play voice Joe Roberts had to say about next season:
I think he’s going to be put into a situation where he’s gonna have to be the guy or one of the guys and hopefully he’s willing to embrace that. I think that he’s going to create a lot of scoring opportunities from his vision and his passing and I think that he’s going to be put in situations where he’s going to be playing with the best of the best. He’s also going to be put into situations where he’s going to play against the best of the best. So, in all facets it’s going to be really, really interesting year for him and one that could be a sort of springboard to what is next for him as far as his first future in the National Hockey League.
I predict that he will play NHL games as soon as next season and will be very competitive for a spot out of training camp in the 2021-22 season. Until then he will need to continue to grind it out in Utica and become the best professional hockey player that he can.
As previously mentioned, with top six potential wingers like Podkolzin and Höglander coming soon, the pressure is now off of Lind. He will simply need to find the role that lands him a spot on this Canucks team and mould his game to be the best at that role.
He will need to continue to stir it up, be chippy and unafraid to mix things up in front of the net. Continuing to grow those types of traits to his overall game with the addition of his playmaking ability and high-end motor will be the keys to Lind adding to the success story that is the Canucks’ 2017 NHL draft. If he is able to be that agitator, it won’t take long for Canucks fans to fall in love with him once they see him mucking it up against the best players in the league.
Another offseason dedicated to becoming an NHL player is required for Lind and he will need to really commit to his craft in order to make it.
The skill is there, the motor is there and though he isn’t throwing massive body checks, his toughness is there too.
If he can improve his skating along with being a just a bit stronger he could be an absolutely dominant AHL player next year — forcing Canucks fans to say, “thank God nobody took Kole Lind”.
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