Welcome to the Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Rankings, the series that makes you wish you were under 25 again. The list includes all players born after January 1st, 1996. Five staff writers (Beggsy, Westy, CanucksAbbyFan2, Trevor Connors, Markus Meyer) and one former staff writer (Daniel Gee, Elite Prospects) cast votes for the project.
After a slow start to his professional hockey career, Kole Lind took a massive step forward with the Utica Comets in 2019-20.
During his rookie campaign, the 2017 second-round selection posted a measly five goals and 17 points in 51 games through a largely difficult first professional season in the AHL.
Lind looked like a changed player during his second year with Utica. He saw his responsibilities increase on the team, and he nearly tripled his rookie point total with 44 points on the season.
I reached out to Utica Observer-Dispatch Reporter Ben Birnell, who covers the Comets on a full-time basis, for more insight on what made Lind successful in 2019-29.
“Confidence seemed to be the biggest thing for him during the 19-20 season that helped him improve,” Birnell said. “I think that he put in the work and learned from his first AHL season, which allowed him to grow. He was also healthy, which was different from his first season.”
Lind missed 21 games with injury and four more as a healthy scratch in his rookie AHL campaign. He had no such injury woes with Utica this season.
The confidence is apparent in Lind’s game as well. He was previously praised by Judd Brackett for a high level of hockey sense, and that came through in his game this year.
You can check one of Lind’s AHL performances with the Eight-Minute Insights below from our CambieKev.
In the clip you can see that he played the majority of his shifts with winger Justin Bailey, and Birnell mentioned that their chemistry was evident throughout the Comets season.
Here’s what else Birnell had to say about how Lind took a step forward in ‘19-20.
“Lind’s improved work along the boards stood out. He seemed a little more patient. And, he was holding on to the puck just a little longer to draw D to create more plays.”
So, what does Lind need to improve in order to make it to the NHL?
“To have success at the next level, I think he needs to continue to improve his two-way game. It will be interesting to see how the time off helped him,” Birnell said.
What’s Next for Lind?
In any normal season, Lind would be back down in Utica to play in a top-six role. As Birnell noted, Lind does need to continue rounding out his game, especially on the defensive side. He’s likely a player who will slide into the bottom side at the NHL level, making improvement in his two-way game a focal point for 2021.
However, there’s a chance that Lind doesn’t begin the season in Utica. After Sven Baertschi opted out of the return to play in the summer, it was Lind who was named as his replacement. By all accounts, he stood out during the condensed training camp and the scrimmages, and joined the team in Edmonton in case injuries were to strike.
#Canucks Kole Lind had 2A on Feb 28th. Turns to his forehand a fires a SOG at 0:07-Bailey chance. Creates a TO at 0:20- sends a pass tape to tape to Hamilton- scores. Takeaway in DZ at 0:45. Puck control and nice deke at 1:23-SOG. Can't get to Juolevi's pass (1:45).— Daniel Gee (@DanielGScouting) March 4, 2020
With the border restrictions complicating normal AHL call-ups from Utica to Vancouver, the Canucks will be granted another taxi squad for the upcoming season.
Lind would be a candidate to join that group, but the more likely scenario is that the Shaunavon, Saskatchewan native continues to play and develop down in Utica. A more veteran player like Bailey makes more sense for the Canucks taxi squad.
In any case, this is a big developmental year for Lind. You don’t have to look too hard at the Canucks forward depth to see that there’s a big drop off after the stars. There’s an opportunity for Lind at the NHL level, but only if he can find another gear and begin to dominate at the AHL level this season.