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Canucks prospect Lind learned on frigid outdoor rink

Forward could skate to ice from home as boy

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- With media, fans and Vancouver Canucks management bundled up in long pants and jackets to watch drills at development camp this month, forward prospect Kole Lind could only chuckle at those who found the arena cold after coming in from the July sunshine.

When you grow up in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan, and you're able to tie your skates at home before skating down a frozen back alley to the nearby outdoor rink, cold is a relative term.

"It was literally about three houses down across the back alley, and it was so cold and the snow was piled up high enough that I could just skate right to the outdoor rink," Lind said. "The town would spray a bunch of water in a field and close it in with snow banks."

In an era of skills coaches, power skating and year-round hockey, Lind, 18, said he believes his ability to skate out the back door and play whenever he wanted in a less-structured environment played a role in him being selected in the second round (No. 33) by the Canucks in the 2017 NHL Draft.

Praised for the versatility and skills that allowed him to score 87 points (30 goals, 57 assists) in 70 games for Kelowna of the Western Hockey League last season, Lind said some of his instincts in the offensive zone are the result of all those hours outside.

"You have to get a little more creative," he said. "By 3 or 4, I skated every day after the older kids got out of school. Kids my age didn't know how to skate, so I went out with the older guys and tried to scrimmage best I could. I wasn't the best, but it definitely made me better."

Skating with five-time Canada Olympian and fellow Shaunavon native Hayley Wickenheiser also helped. Lind has worked at hockey schools with Wickenheiser, arguably the greatest women's player in history, who retired in January with four Olympic gold medals and was a guest coach at the Edmonton Oilers development camp in early July.

"She actually sent me a tweet after I got drafted, so that was pretty cool," Lind said.

Lind doesn't rely exclusively on his small-town roots. He started power skating with a coach in nearby Swift Current when he was 7 years old and still works with him every summer. Three years ago, Lind began working there with skills coach Darryl Belfry, whose clients include Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, New York Islanders center John Tavares, Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane and Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews.

"He's one of the top skills coaches in the world," Lind said. "He reviews everything on the ice and you fix it and make it perfect every time you do something. He's definitely helped."

Lind (6-foot-1, 176 pounds) began last season projected as a third-round pick, but his stock rose as his scoring totals climbed. Able to play wing or center, he showed signs of being a playmaker and a good finisher and was projected by some to be picked in the first round of the 2017 draft.

Any disappointment Lind might have felt at not being picked on the first day in Chicago ended quickly when he was taken early on the second. His focus now is on adding strength this summer before returning to the WHL in the fall.

"There is a special skill set there," Canucks director of player development Ryan Johnson said. "He's very raw in his makeup right now, which for me is exciting because you can only go up with his strength and his conditioning. So when you have natural ability like that already and now we can put some strength and other resources into him, he can only go up."

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