Last week, the Vancouver Canucks signed Kole Lind to a three-year, entry-level contract. The last year of Lind’s hockey career has been quite spectacular, ranging from his draft to his contract signing and everything that fell in between.
I had the honor of speaking with the 19-year-old Saskatchewan product and got to ask him about everything he’s experienced in that aforementioned year. Let’s take a look at what he had to say.
Lind With the Rockets
THW: It’s been a big year for you obviously — the draft, the Canada/Russia series, a huge season in the WHL. What’s been the highlight for you so far?
Kole Lind: I think, you know, just this season in Kelowna. I think there’s obviously been a lot of cool experiences but I don’t think anything really beats being in this city (Kelowna), you know, with the guys everyday.
Lind currently plays for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL and is absolutely tearing it up — in 53 games this season, he’s found twine 37 times and added 50 helpers. He’s battled through adversities such as injuries and illness and his point totals would be even higher if he hadn’t missed any action. To put his rate of development in perspective, Lind has reached his previous season and career high (last season) in 17 fewer games. Also, two seasons ago, he recorded less than half those points (41) in the same amount of games (70).
Much of Lind’s success can be attributed to his chemistry with Dillon Dube, a fellow Rocket.
THW: You’ve obviously developed a lot of chemistry with Dillon Dube. With him being drafted by the Pacific Division rival, Calgary Flames. How do you feel about potentially lining up against him in the NHL?
KL: Yeah, it’ll obviously be a lot different, you know, having one of my best friends hopefully on the other side someday, but it’ll definitely be cool — a cool experience for both of us and hopefully we can make it there eventually.
Lind’s WJC Snub and Canada/Russia Series
Team Canada took home Gold at the 2018 WJC and put some of the best prospects in the world on display. However, Canada is known for constructing well-rounded teams over talent-based teams, so, a tough player like Jonah Gadjovich is somebody who’s utilized in the bottom-six of the roster instead of an all-out sniper. Lind was expected to be taken on the team to play alongside his Kelowna Rockets linemate, Dube, but was snubbed of the opportunity in his last year of eligibility. The decision understandably upset Lind.
THW: Dillon made and captained the Canadian 2018 World Junior team and you were overlooked in a very questionable decision. I’m sure it was quite devastating, but how were you able to put that in your rear view and just keep pressing on and have this impressive season that you’ve had?
KL: I think something that I’ve focused on for a long time is my mental toughness and, you know, my ability to bounce back from things that obviously don’t go your way and just battling through that — not really sulking and pouting about it and instead using that for motivation and that’s kind of what I did and, you know, I tried to prove myself and that I can still do my thing.
Perhaps what made the decision even more questionable, was the fact that the tournament was around two months after Lind’s dominance of the 2017 CIBC Canada/Russia Series — Lind lit up the Russians and looked to be one of the best Canadian prospects competing in the tournament.
THW: In that Canada/Russia Series you played in, you stole the show for the WHL team. You played with some serious talent out there — Cody Glass, Michael Rasmussen and obviously all the Russians. What was it like being on the ice with such talent like that?
KL: It was a lot different, obviously, but I think it was a good thing for me too at the same time. Having to play at a higher pace with a lot more talented guys will make me better and, you know, prepare me for the next step.
Lind and the Canucks
As previously mentioned, the Canucks inked Lind to a three-year deal and are excited to see the young man in action with an orca on his chest. Lind’s tough and point-producing style of play is exactly why the Canucks drafted him last year and he’ll likely be seeing some NHL action sooner rather than later. It’s doubtful that he’ll be back in Kelowna for next season and he’s expected to either crack the lineup with an impressive camp or spend the season with the Utica Comets in the AHL getting ready for the big leagues.
THW: During your draft, at the end of the first day, Jim Benning was actually mic’d up and he said, “Why hasn’t anybody taken Kole Lind?”. Is having your GM in your corner and so confident in your abilities something that gives you confidence, or is it maybe something that might tack on a bit of pressure?
KL: I think a little bit of both. I think, obviously, it feels good that he’s on my side and he has a lot of trust in me and likes the way I play and everything, so I think that’s really cool, but at the same time I think that that adds on — he expects a lot of things from you and expects you to play at a high pace and a high level every single night, so that’s something that I try to do but, you know, it’s obviously great having a guy like Jim on your side so he can have your back through it all.
As good as Lind is, the Canucks’ prospect pool is swimming with some extreme talent and the road to a roster spot is challenging, to say the least.
THW: In September, you were quoted (as) saying that you’re happy to be drafted by the Canucks because you felt it was an organization you could fit in with sooner rather than later. With Elias Pettersson leading the SHL in scoring, Adam Gaudette leading the NCAA in scoring, Jonah Gadjovich killing it in the ‘O’ (OHL), how do you stay relevant in such a talented prospect pool?
KL:You know, just going out and playing my game. I think that’s something my coaches, even Vancouver, got the point across that they want me to go out and be a tough competitor every night and a tough guy to play against and everything else will come with it. Yeah, just keep doing my thing and try to produce and win games for Kelowna.
Lind’s ability to play with an edge to his game is something that gives him the upper hand on a lot of other competing prospects. That’s not to discredit his impressive offensive abilities, though.
THW: You mentioned trying to produce and play with a chip on your shoulder. Is there an NHL player that you’ve taken inspiration from or tried to model your game after?
KL: Somebody that I watched a lot, actually, when I was a kid was Jordan Eberle. You know, I watched a lot of the Regina Pats (WHL) growing up and seeing him go to Edmonton was pretty close to home then so I watched him quite a bit. Now, obviously with him killing it with the Islanders, it’s really cool for me and he’s definitely one of my favorite players to watch.
THW: Where do you see yourself at the start of the 2018-19 season?
KL: I’m not really sure right now. Obviously I think my goal is to play in Vancouver next year, but I think that, you know, it could go a lot of different ways from there. I think whatever Vancouver has in plans for me, I’m going to trust them and develop until I’m good enough to take on the NHL.
It was a pleasure to talk to Lind and I wish him all the best in the near future. Tell me what you think about this young gun’s future with the Canucks below!
Matt is a longtime fan, player and student of the game of hockey. Broadcast and Online Journalism student at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.