“Why isn’t anyone taking Kole Lind?” said Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Four years later, that quote has taken an ironic turn.
The Kraken won’t be officially announcing their picks for the expansion draft until 5pm on Wednesday, but many of their picks have already leaked. That includes their pick from the Canucks, which is expected to be prospect forward Kole Lind.
Lind was selected 33rd overall in the second round of the 2017 draft and has shown steady development ever since.
After 87 points in 70 WHL games in his draft year, he followed that up with 95 points in just 58 games. After a disappointing 15 points in 51 games in his rookie season in the AHL, he stepped up in his second year with 44 points in 61 games. He played just 8 games during a bizarre 2020-21 season affected by COVID-19 but was a point-per-game with 5 goals and 8 points.
That’s what made Lind such an intriguing prospect: he kept taking steps forward every year. He was becoming a more dynamic player, with playmaking upside and some versatility as the team moved him from the wing to centre. When he made his Canucks debut, he didn’t look out of place.
Still, Lind was a longshot to make the Canucks roster out of camp next season, which complicated matters because he will be waiver eligible. That means if he was sent to the AHL, he would have to clear waivers to get there.
With the acquisition of Jason Dickinson from the Dallas Stars, the Canucks decided not to protect Lind from the expansion draft, leaving him available for the Kraken.
In Seattle, Lind should have a better chance of making the team out of camp as the Kraken have evidently prioritized defence in their reported expansion draft picks.
Former Canuck Jared McCann is expected to be the pick from the Toronto Maple Leafs just days after the Leafs traded a 7th-round pick and a prospect to acquire McCann from the Pittsburgh Penguins. It seems likely that the price of acquiring McCann was cheaper than the price the Kraken asked for in order to protect the Leafs’ roster.
It seemed likely that another former Canuck, Troy Stecher, would be the Kraken’s pick from the Detroit Red Wings. Instead, the Kraken went with the younger Dennis Cholowski, a first-round pick from 2016 who has yet to fully break through to the NHL.
For the Canucks, it would have been better if the Kraken had taken one of their more expensive contracts to free up some cap space. It seemed possible heading into the expansion draft that the Kraken might take goaltender Braden Holtby, but they went a different direction in net, signing Chris Driedger as a free agent from the Florida Panthers.
While the Kraken’s picks in the expansion draft will be announced Wednesday evening, the full picture won’t be known until Thursday when the roster freeze ends and trades can be officially announced. While some of the Kraken’s selections are surprising or underwhelming, it’s likely they made several side deals to acquire additional picks, prospects, and/or players in order to make those selections.
The Kraken will also have a ton of cap space, which will give them a distinct advantage in free agency.