One of the top midget players in Saskatchewan this season, the Kelowna Rockets were hoping Kole Lind’s transition to the major junior game would be a relatively smooth one.
So far, so good for the 6-foot-2, 175-pound forward who logged his share of ice time and didn’t look at all out of place alongside Cole Linaker and Chance Braid during the first two games of the WHL playoffs against the Tri-City Americans.
“We liked him in Games 1 and 2, he was on the body, he was skating and making plays… he was pretty effective,” said Rockets head coach Dan Lambert. “He’s a very intelligent hockey player and has a knack for knowing where to be on the ice.”
Lind is coming off a stellar 2014-15 season with the Saskatoon Contacts where he led Saskatchewan’s midget AAA league with 45 goals and was second overall in points with 79.
While the Shaunavon, Sask. native theoretically had the skill and work ethic to spend the entire season with the Rockets, the WHL club felt it more advantageous for his development to get him plenty of ice time back in Saskatoon.
Lind made the most of the opportunity.
“It was fine going back to Saskatoon, it’s a great program so I was still able to learn there, come back here and be ready to play when they needed me,” said Lind, who the Rockets picked up in the fourth round of the 2013 WHL bantam draft.
“I can’t complain, coming out of midget and getting a chance to play with one of the best organizations in hockey,” he added. “I can’t ask for much more, so I’ve been fortunate.”
Based on what Kelowna saw from Lind at training camp last fall and with the Contacts this past season, Lambert said it seemed only a matter of time before the young forward would forge his way into the Rockets lineup.
“He benefitted from going back to midget and had a real good season in triple-A,” said Lambert. “When we looked at his game and how he competed, how he got in on the forecheck, and his ability to score, we liked what we saw. We injected him into our lineup and he’s done very well.”
Lind got his feet wet with the Rockets during the regular season, playing in six games.
Four of those came after his Contacts were eliminated from the Saskatchewan midget AAA playoffs in mid-March.
Despite the short time frame, Lind believes he’s already benefitting by watching some of the league’s top players ply their trade.
“I’m learning skills from guys like (Rourke) Chartier and (Nick) Merkley, they do some special things out there,” Lind said, “so it’s been pretty nice for me to watch them and pick some things up.”
Along with Dillon Dube, Lind was the only other 16-year-old player on the roster to suit up with the Rockets for the start of the playoffs.
While he admits playing with one of the CHL’s top teams in the post-season can be a bit of a pressure cooker, Lind is doing his utmost to focus, enjoy and simply play his game.
“It’s pretty exciting and kind of nerve wracking at the same time, but I still try and have some fun,” Lind said.
“You just have to lay it all out there and do your best. Not many 16-year-olds get to be in a situation like this with a team this good, so I’m trying to make the best if it.”
The Rockets and Americans meet Tuesday night in Kennewick, WA in Game 3 of their WHL first-round playoff series. Kelowna leads best-of-seven 2-0.