In a word, Kole Lind is driven.
Combined with being bigger, stronger and quicker—and with an added year of maturity—the 18-year-old forward’s game has advanced into a new domain with the Kelowna Rockets’ in 2017-18.
Fresh off a confidence-boosting stint at Vancouver Canucks’ training camp, Lind exploded out of gates to start the WHL season, scoring three times and adding five assists in a pair of Rockets’ victories last weekend.
Bolstered by a five-point effort on Saturday night in Kamloops, Lind is the early leader in the WHL scoring race.
“It’s a good start, for sure,” said an understated Lind, who was named both the CHL and WHL player of the week for his efforts. “I’m just going to try do what was stressed by Vancouver to keep up my pace, to always play with speed. It’s something I try and do. So far, it’s working out.”
In addition to a thorough summer training program in Saskatoon, which helped add a dozen pounds to his 6-foot-1 frame, Lind’s mental approach also evolved in the off-season.
“I think it’s a lot different for me in that way,” said Lind, the Canucks’ second-round pick, 33rd overall in the 2017 NHL entry draft. “I’m feeling more positive at the beginning of the year, I worked a lot on the mental side of my game. I have to be a leader and show positivity.
“I think I feel less pressure, too,” he added. “I’m more used to it, I want to be leaned on by my coaches and teammates…I want to be the go-to guy.”
With a stop at Canada’s world junior development camp in August, then later at Canucks’ training camp, Lind not only gained some valuable experience but confirmed he has all the tools to play at the next level.
“It definitely helped me a lot, my first time at the Canadian junior camp, wearing the Maple Leaf was good for me,” said Lind, who led the Rockets with 87 points last season. “At Canucks camp, it was a good experience to line up against NHL players, to do things at their level and I’ve tried to bring that pace back here with me.
“To get where you want to go in the game, you’ve got to battle with men and I’m working at improving on that, too.”
Rockets’ assistant coach Travis Crickard, who been on the staff since Lind’s first game with the Rockets back in 2014, is impressed with the Shaunavon, Sask. native’s evolution into an elite player, both physically and mentally.
Crickard, like the organization as whole, looks forward to seeing what the latest version of Lind can do over the course of an entire WHL season.
“Kole seemed to make a decision over the summer to work hard on several areas of his game, and right away in practise you saw how good his puck control was,” Crickard said. “He has a lot more confidence in making those highly-skilled plays, he’s just at another level this year.
“His maturity level and his mindset have impressed me too. Only time will tell, but he’s not showing the frustration he did at times last year. When you’re as good as Kole, I think there’s no doubt he’s going to progress to the next level. It should be pretty enjoyable to watch.”
Lind and the Rockets (2-0-0-0) will be looking for their third straight win to start the WHL season Friday when they host the Everett Silvertips. Face off at Prospera Place is 7 p.m.