Could the Devils snag an offensive difference-maker in the second round of this year’s NHL Draft in Kole Ling?
Who is Kole Lind?
Kole Lind is a speedy forward who has played his past 2+ seasons with the Kelowna Rockets out of the CHL’s Western Hockey League. A native of Shaunavon, Saskatchewan, Lind is listed at 6’-1” and 173 pounds and is on the older side of this year’s draft, with his birthdate being October 18, 1998. Lind is a right-hand shot and has lined up mostly on the right wing in his time in Kelowna. Lind has now played two full seasons in the WHL and has put up some solid numbers to this point. He had a solid draft-minus-one season in 2015-16 and followed it up with a very strong season in 2016-17 where he put up well over a point per game in a full 70-game slate. His full stats from Elite Prospects are below:
His 87 points in 70 games led a strong Rockets team this season, helping them finish 4th in the WHL’s western conference and then make it to the conference finals in the playoffs. He was 15th overall in the WHL in scoring and 4th of the first-year draft eligible prospects in the league. He is regarded as a fast skater and a player with definite tools to be able to continue to score at higher levels. Reports on him describe a very good shot that is strong, but also features a quick release. He seems to have solid offensive zone awareness and can get himself into good spots to put up goals with regularity. With 57 assists, he appears to be willing and able to distribute the puck when need be and overall his offensive game is generally highly touted.
If there’s a knock on Lind, it seems to come at the other end of the ice, where his defensive game isn’t fully realized yet. With a generally lanky frame at 6’-1” and 175ish, scouts also generally feel he’ll need to get a bit stronger before reaching the NHL. Some reports do seem to have his all-around game progressing well, though. If he can fully round out his defensive skills to go along with his generally highly-touted offense, he could be a strong pick somewhere in the late first/early second round.
Where is Lind Ranked?
A sampling of Lind’s rankings from various prospect guides and scouting services places him anywhere from the mid-first round to the mid-second. If the Devils maintain their second round pick at #37, it is plausible that Lind could be there, though it’s very far from a guarantee.
What Others are Saying About Kole Lind
With Lind being a fairly highly-touted prospect, there are plenty of analyses out there that have been done of his game. To start we will go to this piece from Ben Kerr at Last Word on Sports. It give a pretty thorough look at the elements of his game that stand out, including his skating, which Kerr rates as a big positive. Some relevant passages about his offensive and defensive games are here:
Lind is equally adept at both scoring goals and setting them up. He has an excellent wrist shot. It is accurate and powerful, and he gets it off with a quick release. He also has an outstanding slap shot and one-timer. Lind has a knack for finding the soft spot in the defensive coverage and ripping his slap shot by the goaltender. He also has the soft hands to finish plays in close to the goal line.
Lind works hard in the defensive end, but his game continues to be a work in progress. He is certainly more than willing to engage defensively and to battle for loose pucks, but his lack of upper-body strength again becomes a concern. He could also stand to work on his positioning without the puck.
A plus shot to go with good vision and playmaking skills certainly paints a picture of a very good offensive player overall. And while his defense may not quite be there, it seems that it’s not for lack of effort, which makes it seem like he’ll be motivated to improve.
Many of the same positives for reiterated in this piece from Marshall Mackinder at HockeyNow. Mackinder also likes Lind’s skating and shot as can be seen in this excerpt:
Kole Lind is a real strong skater and is well balanced on his edges and can turn on a dime. He has a cannon of a shot and a good snap release on wrist shots. He doesn’t miss the net often when he shoots. Still growing and will grow in to a premier power forward in the league. Good zone entry and doesn’t hold on to the puck too long.
One difference here is that while others aren’t necessarily enamored with his size right now, Mackinder sees a potential premier power forward type player in Lind. If he can put on some additional mass, his game as described could certainly head in that direction.
For some insight on what his coach thinks of his play, you can head over to this interview with Kelowna head coach Jason Smith at DubNetwork.ca. His awareness in the offensive zone is again alluded to here by the coach, who also touts his efforts to play a more complete game in the past season:
“Kole shoots the puck really well,” Smith continued. “He gets himself into position in the offensive zone where he can receive the puck and shoot it. And he skates well enough that he can create offence off the rushes.
“I think he’s scored goals in a lot of different ways this year and a lot of it is by hard work and understanding how to use his skill set.”
“He’s grown his game and I think he’s taken more responsibility in playing a 200-foot game which has allowed him to get some penalty kill time and be relied upon as a responsible guy on our team.”
Lind seems to have the skill but perhaps just a importantly, many point to his ability to get himself into the right spots to score.
Finally, we’ll go to one more profile from Ryan Pike at The Hockey Writers. He is not quite as high on Lind’s shot but still touts his positioning and ability to set up plays. He also likes his physical game but notes that he can get a bit distracted with it from time to time:
He’s a very effective puck distributor and has an effective, though not amazing, shot – his 30 goals this season are as much a product of his positioning as his shooting. He’s not a huge guy, though he’s got the frame to add some muscle, but that hasn’t mattered; he plays a very effective physical game and often buzzes around the ice hitting everything in sight on the forecheck. Sometimes this gets him into some trouble away from the puck, with the physical side pulling him out of position, but he’s improved in that respect over the last couple of seasons.
Later in the profile, Pike also mentions that he likes that Lind seems to be able to learn and improve his game well over time. Most of the profiles seem to point to Lind being a smart player, which is always a plus for any prospect.
A Little Video
First is a full highlights package for Lind, including some mixed in interview questions on his game. There’s an interesting bit where he talks about a massive slump he went into at the end of his rookie season in the WHL and how he’s learned from it (essentially, he just ran out of gas with a longer season than he was used to).
He shows off some nice passing in this video and clearly knows how to find the net, as a number of these goals see him cleaning up in front or finding a hole in the defense to pot an easy one.
A couple more game highlights by channel NHL Prospects from some of his games in Kelowna show off more of his ability to get to the front of the net, distribute the puck, and make plays on the rush.
An Opinion of Sorts
Assuming the Devils end up with one of either Patrick or Hischier at pick number one, it will be interesting to see what their strategy is for the rest of the draft. They certainly could use some help on defense in their system, but they aren’t so flush with forward depth that they can afford to pass up on a very good prospect just to pick a defender. Lind seems like a very good forward prospect, and while he doesn’t have super electrifying highlights to show for them, he put up a ton of points in the WHL this season. He has plenty of skill and seems to have a really good hockey IQ to go along with it, based on the scouting reports and highlights out there on him. If he were to fall to the Devils in the second round, he would certainly be a worthwhile pick to make in that position. If the Devils get their big time center at first overall, it wouldn’t be so bad to have a potential talented winger to line up next to him in the future.
After reading about Kole Lind, what are you feelings on him as a prospect? Would you be happy if he fell to the Devils in the second round and they took him? Would you entertain the thought of trading up for a player like Lind? Would you rather a defenseman at this point in the draft? Are there portions of his game you like/don’t like? Sound off with your thoughts below and thanks for reading.