Canucks Prospect Report: Will Kole Lind make the jump?

BRIDGEPORT, CT - FEBRUARY 10: Kole Lind #13 of the Utica Comets brings the puck up ice during a game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at Webster Bank Arena on February 10, 2019 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Photo by Gregory Vasil/Getty Images)
BRIDGEPORT, CT - FEBRUARY 10: Kole Lind #13 of the Utica Comets brings the puck up ice during a game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at Webster Bank Arena on February 10, 2019 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Photo by Gregory Vasil/Getty Images) /

The Canucks Prospect Report is a new weekly segment on The Canuck Way, which will profile various prospects throughout their respective seasons.

I’ll be assessing which Canuck hopefuls have the best chance to make the team this season. Tune in each and every Monday to see what’s happening. 

Kole Lind’s third professional season is pivotal for his future with the Vancouver Canucks.

After a subpar rookie campaign, Lind bounced back with the Utica Comets in 2019-20. In 61 games, Lind scored 14 goals and 44 points, meriting him Utica’s Most Improved Player Award.

In Junior, Lind was hailed for his electrifying shot, scoring 83 goals in 198 games. His transition to the AHL was an adjustment, however, Lind saw limited opportunities at the bottom of the lineup, leading to an underwhelming rookie season, scoring mere five goals and 17 points in 2018-19.

In 2019-20, Lind rounded out his play, with his most significant improvement coming on the forecheck. When speaking with The Province, Canucks senior director of player development Ryan Johnson praised Lind’s growth.

"“One of the challenges in his first year was we wanted him to be assertive on the forecheck. He sees the ice so well we were trying to get him involved more, getting the puck on his stick […] We told him ‘we want you to have the puck because when you have it, you do great things with it. We need your initiative on the forecheck.’”"

With a more refined game, Lind’s playmaking abilities shone through. He utilized his accurate passing to create high-quality chances on the rush. In the offensive zone, he could set up teammates with cross-ice passes on both the power play and at even-strength with ease.

Lind was also an excellent play driver, combining his transition play and passing talents to become a force on the ice. Further, Lind’s tenacious forechecking allowed him to facilitate chances on the rush, and get dangerous pucks on the net.

In the accompanying clips, Lind does well to follow the puck as the second and third forward on the forecheck, leading to close opportunities at the net-front.

The stats back up Lind’s play-driving as well. As per Comets experts Chris Faber and Cody Severtson, Lind led the Comets in Corsi For (49.9%) at even-strength.  Suffice to say, Lind could create opportunities whenever he stepped foot on the ice.

One hindrance to Lind’s game, however, is his skating. At the end of his rookie season, Lind commented on which areas of his skating he needed to work on.

"“I think the biggest thing for me is skating, getting my legs stronger, and being more powerful. I think there were times where I’d feel like I was a little half step behind the play, where [I want to] get caught up to the play or if not be faster than it. So, I think that’s the biggest thing I’m going to try and work on this summer.”"

Lind’s offseason training boded well for his play, as his skating looked much better in 2019-20. EliteProspect’s JD Burke noted that with these improvements, Lind could leverage his offensive capabilities at the top of the lineup.

"“Really hard on the forecheck, supports the puck well, can anticipate plays relatively well, and when he has the time to get his wrist shot off it’s a credible threat even from intermediate range. Even Lind’s skating, which has long been a cause for concern, is starting to take strides in the right direction.”"

Another criticism of Lind would be that he could shoot the puck more often. As Burke mentioned, he has shown glimpses of his shooting talents at the professional level. But, Lind could benefit from taking more than the 117 shots he took in 2019-20, whether that be unleashing the puck more often, or positioning himself better off the puck to do so.

After participating in the NHL’s Return to Play summer camp, Lind’s exposure to the NHL environment is sure to have had a positive impact, especially ahead of an ever-important 2020-21 training camp looming.

Currently, DobberProspects’ Cam Robinson projects Lind as an effective top-nine contributor.

If Lind’s skating abilities progress, he can undoubtedly reach that plateau with the Canucks, sooner rather than later.

What does next season hold for Kole Lind?

Lind’s placement next season hinges on a number of contingencies.

First, with the NHL’s All-Canadian Division an inevitability, does Lind benefit from a place on the Canucks’ taxi-squad?

Given the likelihood of injury (or illness) and lineup rotation in a condensed NHL season, there is a chance Lind sees NHL game time. However, does another full year in Utica serve Lind better?

Accented by the departures of Reid Boucher & Nikolay Goldobin, Lind would take the reigns as Utica’s top forward option. However, the Canucks lack depth, so Lind will be in the mix for a “roster” spot this year.

Second, the Canucks will likely need to protect Lind in the upcoming expansion draft. So, wherever he plays, he needs to prove that he’s worth protecting over the likes of Zack MacEwen.

While Lind is a cost-controlled winger who looks like he can contribute in the bottom-six, the Canucks need to see another step in his development, especially if MacEwen takes a stranglehold on a roster spot. Should Lind progress, the decision is easy, but that remains to be seen.

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Realistically, guaranteed ice-time in Utica works in Lind’s favour, long-term. However, some time with the big club, even in the taxi-squad, would assuredly boost his development, especially if his strong play continues its upward trend into training camp.

Lind will know his fate soon, though. With the added hurdle of the Canada-US border restrictions, he will most likely play most of the year wherever his initial assignment lands him.

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So, can Lind impress the Canucks coaching staff enough to claim a roster spot? Let us know what you think in the comments!