Team Canada cut some surprising players during their selection camp heading into the World Junior Championships. Skilled players like Cody Glass and Nick Suzuki got cut from the team in favour of players more likely to play a bottom-six role. Owen Tippett, who played seven games for the Florida Panthers this season, didn’t even get invited to camp.
Canucks’ prospect Kole Lind was one of the skilled players cut by Canada. The 33rd overall pick had 36 points in 23 WHL games heading into selection camp, despite dealing with a case of mononucleosis. That was enough to get him into camp, but not into the tournament.
It was a tough cut for Lind to take, as this was his last chance to play in the World Juniors. Lind turned 19 in October, so he’ll be too old by the time the next tournament comes around. He was clearly emotional, but tried to remain upbeat.
“It's something that's out of my control,” he said. “I did what I could and played pretty well. There's some things I can take away from this, both good and bad. This is a learning experience for me.”
Apparently he learned a lot.
In the three games since he was cut from Team Canada, Lind has eight points. It started with a hat trick in his first game back with the Kelowna Rockets, then he had a four-assist game, then kept rolling with another goal on Wednesday night.
His hat trick started with a wonderful shot coming down the right wing, sending the puck just inside the far post.
He followed that up with a snap shot into the top corner on the power play from the left faceoff circle.
Kole Lind's second goal of the night - takes a couple steps on the powerplay and picks the corner.— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) December 16, 2017
He then proceeded to return to the Kelowna bench and chirp the P.A. bench#Canucks pic.twitter.com/6aktetXDh9
He finished off the hat trick by one-timing a power play rebound into the back of the net; not as pretty as his previous two goals, but showing some impressive hand-eye coordination.
His goal on Wednesday night was another gorgeous shot, ripping the puck into the top corner after getting some separation from his defender.
The eruption brings Lind up to 44 points in 26 games, good for sixth in the WHL in points per game. Incredibly, only four of his assists have been secondary assists, so 40 of his 44 points have been primary points: goals or primary assists.
When it comes to primary points per game, Lind is third in the WHL, ahead of even Aleksi Heponiemi, who leads the league in points. Most of Heponiemi’s assists are secondary assists, with two of his Swift Current teammates at the top of the league with him in points per game. Lind has a good team in Kelowna, but has a lot less help than some of the other players at the top of the league in points.
Lind still has a long way to go before making the NHL — he has to prove that his playmaking will translate to higher levels and find a way to quicken his release — but he’s on the right track. He’ll be eligible to play in the AHL as soon as next season, so he and the Canucks will have a decision to make: should he return to the WHL for his over-age season where he will likely dominate or head to the Utica Comets to learn the professional game?
UPDATE: December 30th, 2017
With yet another hat trick on Friday night, Kole Lind is up to 7 goals and 11 points in 4 games since getting cut by Team Canada. He had 9 shots on goal in his latest game. This performance came shortly after Canada couldn't build on an early lead over the US at the World Juniors, losing in the shootout.