Canucks prospects of week 18: Lind, Juolevi and Costmar

LAVAL, QC, CANADA - NOVEMBER 3: Olli Juolevi #48 of the Utica Comets skating up the ice with the puck against the Laval Rocket at Place Bell on November 3, 2018 in Laval, Quebec. (Photo by Stephane Dube /Getty Images)
LAVAL, QC, CANADA - NOVEMBER 3: Olli Juolevi #48 of the Utica Comets skating up the ice with the puck against the Laval Rocket at Place Bell on November 3, 2018 in Laval, Quebec. (Photo by Stephane Dube /Getty Images) /

Each week, I will be featuring the Vancouver Canucks top three prospects. Here’s a look at who stood out in week 18.

One area of the Vancouver Canucks’ organization that drew harsh criticism by fans and media last season was player development. Yet, today I see a Utica Comets team that sits in first place in the North Division of the American Hockey League.

Even more encouraging than where they sit in the standings, is the progression of the young players. This week’s top prospects features a couple of those players, along with a late-round draft pick that is dominating at the junior level in Sweden.

Kole Lind

What a difference a year makes. Last season Kole Lind struggled to show that he belonged at the AHL level. However, this year he sits tied for third in team scoring with 37 points in 42 games. Watching him play this season, he is a much more confident individual, reminiscent of his days with the Kelowna Rockets.

His contributions to the team have been an integral part of the team’s success. The feistiness that he has shown has Lind second on the club in penalty minutes. Lind is also second on the team in power play goals with six while taking the majority of the faceoffs for the first unit.

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In a pair of weekend victories for the Comets, Lind posted back-to-back multi-point games. In the Friday night affair, the Comets trailed 2-0 before Lind snapped one home from the right faceoff circle late in the first period.

He then found Justin Bailey for the go-ahead goal in the middle frame to put the Comets up 3-2. Later, he once again dished unselfishly to Bailey for the hat-trick goal into the empty net. The Comets won the game 6-3 over the Hartford Wolf Pack. Lind earned the second star of the game for his exceptional performance.

Saturday night, the Comets downed the Cleveland Monsters 6-2 with Lind once again playing a significant role. Once more, he opened the scoring for the Comets.

This time he tipped home a point shot while on the man advantage to make it 1-0. Lind added a second-period assist on the eventual game-winning goal by Lukas Jasek. Similarly, he earned the second star of the game nod in this contest as well.

Olli Juolevi

Another prospect that is taking great strides in his development is Olli Juolevi. The patient approach the Canucks have taken with him is finally starting to show dividends. A multitude of injuries has hampered his progress since being selected fifth overall in the 2016 NHL entry draft. Recently, however, his encouraging play bears a resemblance to the promising young talent the team and fans have been waiting for.

In games this past week, Juolevi displayed poise and patience with his puck distribution. His zone exits were superb, and his defensive zone coverage a noticeable improvement. With the recent injury to Brogan Rafferty, Juolevi has assumed the role of quarterback on the first power play unit. The Comets won all three of their games this past week, and Juolevi hit the scoresheet in each of those contests.

On Wednesday night — a 6-5 overtime decision — Juolevi set up Rafferty while the Comets were shorthanded. Friday night in the rematch of the two clubs, he earned the third star of the game selection. In that game, Juolevi joined the rush and snapped home a goal knotting the game 2-2. He later provided an assist on an empty net marker.

In the Saturday night affair, it was his point shot that Lind tipped home while on the power play to get things started for the Comets. Juolevi also had a hand in another Comets goal, although he didn’t garner an assist on the play when he broke up a rush in the neutral zone, which ultimately led to the tally.

Arvid Costmar

With the 215th overall pick in the 2019 NHL draft, the Canucks selected hard-working Swedish centerman Arvid Costmar. With a seventh-round selection comes minimal expectations. However, it appears the Canucks may have uncovered another late-round gem. Costmar has bounced around from team to team and league to league this season.

Although he is yet to produce any points in either the SHL or Allsvenskan, he has dominated the SuperElit, which is a junior league. The 18-year-old forward is averaging 1.68 points per game, which includes his six points in two playoff games. During the regular season, he also dominated the faceoff circle, winning 65.79% of his draws. Linkopings U20 has split the two playoff games that Costmar participated in.

Honourable mentions

Rafferty has become a fixture in the top prospects of the week. Had it not been for an injury that kept him out of two games this week, he may have been featured once again. Rafferty had four points in the game that he played and is deserving of a mention.

Goaltender Michael Dipietro backstopped the Comets to all three of their victories this past week. He started two of the games and came in to replace Zane McIntyre, thus sparking the Comets comeback in the other. Carson Focht, Will Lockwood, Jack Rathbone and Linus Karlsson all had one two-point game last week.

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It remains very exciting to see the progression of these young players. Both the quality and depth of the Canucks organization regarding their prospects has vastly improved.