Lind sets offensive pace for Kelowna Rockets

A good start to 2016-17 season for Kelowna forward after a tough finish to last season.

Kole Lind leads the Rockets in scoring through the first 16 games of the WHL season

Kole Lind went the last 30 games of the 2015-16 Western Hockey League season without scoring a goal.

And while both the Kelowna Rockets and the 6-foot-1 forward were somewhat puzzled by the slump, neither believed it would be permanent.

Lind, 18, has turned the page on a forgettable conclusion to last season with an inspired and productive start to 2016-17.

Through the first 16 games of the new WHL campaign, the Shaunavon, SK, native led the Rockets with 16 points, on six goals and 10 assists.

“It’s a long season and you get hot and cold streaks every year,” said Lind, who scored 13 goals over the first half of his rookie season and just one after Jan. 1.

“Going that long (without a goal) was kind of a low point for me, but you can’t get too down, you just need to keep working and the pucks and bounces will eventually start going your way.

“I just concentrated on working harder during the summer, getting stronger and quicker, and so far it seems to be going well.”

Already well aware of his offensive skill, the Rockets made Lind their fourth-round choice in the 2013 WHL bantam draft.

A season later, playing with the Saskatoon Contacts, Lind led the Saskatchewan midget AAA league with 45 goals in 44 games.

In 2015-16, the Rockets saw flashes of what Lind was capable of as a major junior player, before his second-half drop off. He finished the season with 14 goals and 41 points.

Rockets’ assistant general manager Lorne Frey said like so many players in their first WHL season, it was a matter of Lind learning the ropes and believing in his abilities.

“I don’t think he’d ever experienced that sort of thing and I think it wore on him a little,” Frey said of Lind’s sudden drop in production.

“It was a matter of getting confidence in his game because he really thrives on success. His play becomes more consistent, he feels better about his game and it gets better from there.

“We expected it would just be a matter of time, this is kind of where we perceived him to be as an 18-year-old,” Frey added.

“It’s good to see him producing because we really need him this year. He’s a goal scorer and good playmaker, too, so he’s very important for us.”

With the departures of high-scoring forwards Tyson Baillie, Rourke Chartier and Justin Kirkland—99 goals combined—from last year’s team, Lind’s value to the Rockets this season has come into clear view.

While he admittedly feels some pressure to perform in their absence, Lind said it’s a role he embraces.

“Those guys were all great players and they did a lot while they were here,” Lind said.

“We need guys to step up and it’s a role I’m excited about, for sure. Hopefully I’ll be able to help fill that along with some of the other guys.”

Rocket Shots…

The Rockets (9-7-0) take a six-game winning streak into tonight’s game against the Kamloops Blazers. Face off at Prospera Place is 7:05 p.m.…The Rockets visit the Vancouver Giants Friday night when the teams face off for the first time this season at the Lamgley Events Centre…Kelowna will host the Medicine Hat Tigers Saturday night.