|Kole Lind - Shoot the Breeze Photography|
- Kole Lind led the Kelowna Rockets in scoring last season with 87 points. After two weekend victories over the Kamloops Blazers, Lind leads the WHL scoring race. The 18 year-old collected a goal and two assists Friday night in a 6-2 win and followed that up with two goals and three assists Saturday night in a 5-1 victory. Lind came back from Canucks camp with a tremendous mindset, one that he and the Canucks deserve much credit. Whatever the coaches said to Lind in his first NHL training camp exit meeting, it must have been made abundantly clear that his time would eventually come to play professional hockey - but that time was not now. Go back to Kelowna, don't sulk and pout, be the best player on the ice and do it on a consistent basis. It looks like Lind accepted the fact he wasn't going to walk into the Canucks dressing room after being selected in the second round in June and take the franchise by storm. The best players don't ignore discrepancies in their game. They address them and this is Lind's platform to correct those shortcomings. Lind's game is in a tremendous place. More importantly, the Shaunavon, Saskatchewan residents mental game is where it needs to be. If it remains this way in his third full season in the WHL, Lind will be playing in the NHL quicker than you may think.
- If you told me going into the weekend that goaltender Brodan Salmond would allow only three goals against in back-to-back games against the Blazers, I would have laughed at you. The 19 year-old was extremely good on the weekend. Salmond was like a piece of plywood. Rarely out of position, the Calgary resident let the puck hit him. I will admit though, Salmond appears to have one aspect of his game at a higher level than last years starter Michael Herringer. Salmond seems to be able to track pucks better. Sorry for the 'hockey speak', but if a puck hits a shin pad or deflects off the glass, Salmond seems to be able to pick it up better and than is able to get into position to stop it. Herringer often lost sight of the puck and had to react acrobatically to recover. Salmond isn't totally vanilla by the way. His glove hand save against Blazers 20 year-old Nick Chyzowski Saturday night shows that Brodan is quicker than we give him credit for. If I was grading Salmond's game this weekend, he easily gets an A.
- As impressive as the three goals against, how about the 11 goals scored? That's generating significant numbers without essentially four regulars out of the line-up. No Dillon Dube, Carsen Twarynski, Erik Gardiner and Leif Mattson didn't deter them from scoring four unanswered goals in Friday's win and another four unanswered goals in the third period in Saturday's road victory. Of the 11 goals scored, Kole Lind was in on 8 of them.
- How about Jack Cowell's play on the weekend? One of the most impressive players in fitness testing, the sophomore forward is taking the game seriously. It has translated into opportunity and three goals in two games. Listed by the Rockets after no one touched him at the WHL bantam draft, the Winnipeg product is just one goal shy from the four he scored in 59 games in his rookie season. Clearly Cowell has the skill set to play at this level. Watch his breakaway goal in Saturday's third period or the fact he was able to handle Kole Lind's saucer pass to knife a shot high over Dylan Ferguson's shoulder to make it 2-1. That goal was the game winner. It is that core of second year forwards that must be better to ensure the team has success. Jack Cowell....mission accomplished in the first two games of the season.
- I've spoken so glowingly of Kole Lind's positive approach to returning to the WHL, but the same must also be said about captain Cal Foote. Looking larger and more intimidating than a season ago (is it the shoulder pads?), I really like the way he is jumping into the play to manufacture offense. Foote's shot from the point is wicked, but his two way game is also something special. Playing with rookie Libor Zabransky, Foote is playing like a first round NHL draft pick should. Composed, prepared and looking elite, Foote leads WHL defenceman in scoring (1+5=6) after two games.
- One rookie who has taken some significant strides in the first two games is 17 year-old Wil Kushniryk. With two assists on the opening weekend, the raw rookie could have had his first WHL goal with a glorious chance in the opening period. Kushniryk is a big body at 6'5 and 205 pounds and in my short viewing, doesn't play a big man's game.yet. Another listed player by Director of Player Personnel Lorne Frey, playing time, patience and confidence is needed right now. Kushniryk is a project, but worth taking a close look at.
- We shouldn't be surprised that Saturday's game at Sandman Centre (I mistakenly called it the Interior Savings Centre Friday night) had some ice issues. Used as a refuge, or evacuation centre during the huge forest fires near Williams Lake, the ice was often soft and took significant time to freeze after a flood. In fact, play was halted early in the third period when the ice was so wet, the puck was sticking to it when players were attempting to stick handle or even pass it. The building typical has terrific ice and Saturday's less than ideal ice is a one-off.
- Before the player introductions Saturday night, the Blazers showed a wicked team video on the big screen. It was excellent. I am told that the Dallas Stars video team produced it, which may be the reason why it had the desired effect in hyping the virtues of the home team. The Blazers owner, Tom Gaglardi, also owns the NHL's Dallas Stars. I thought it was admirable to see Gaglardi in attendance at the Blazers home opener.
- Have you noticed something new on the WHL website? In the game summary section, data is being FINALLY collected for shots taken by an individual player and face-offs won and lost are also being tabulated. Outstanding. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has been doing this for years and I always wondered why the WHL wasn't doing the same? If the opening weekend is any indication, it will be a constant in 2017-2018. What a welcome addition for fans and broadcasters.
Kole Lind - Shoot the Breeze Photography