Shout-out to the Everett Silvertips and Victoria Royals, who are probably still getting in some recuperative naps after the longest WHL game in history, a five-overtime grind that ended with Everett's Cal Babych ending the series with the 3-2 goal. It's that time of year, where the battles live on forever and we've got more high-impact hockey with the NCAA's Frozen Four in Chicago (see players to watch here). In the meantime, let's take a trip around the world of prospects.
Kole Lind, RW - Kelowna Rockets (WHL): A perennial title hunter in the 'Dub,' the Rockets are on to Round 2 in the playoffs after waxing Kamloops in six games. Kelowna has a lot of veteran players who can score, but another emerging talent in Lind, who notched 87 points in 70 regular season games. He's still waiting to make a big impact in the post-season, but he learned during the regular season how to play the Kelowna way.
"In Kelowna you really have to work for your ice every night," Lind said. "That's something they've taught us, that if you work hard, things will start to go your way. The main part for me is focusing on winning games and then individual success will come from that."
Lind brings a great amount of skill to the table and he's got a projectable NHL frame that just needs a bit more meat on the bones. That's an easy thing to accomplish in time and thanks to his ability to create chances and wire pucks into the net, he's a likely first-rounder at this summer's draft. For now, the focus is on rounding out his work.
"My defensive game is the biggest part I need to get better at," he said. "I'm an offensive guy and I like going to the net and scoring goals, but to make it in the pros you have to make those responsible plays."
Though he was clearly an elite hockey player growing up, Lind also excelled at baseball. He played a variety of positions, from shortstop to catcher, and had a great deal of success at the Little League level.
"When I was younger, I played for the Regina Nationals," he said. "We won the provincial championship and Western championship a couple times, so it was pretty cool. I stopped in my first year of bantam hockey; I had to decide eventually and move on with hockey."
Can't say he made a bad decision there. Though it continues to be confirmed that playing more than one sport when growing up can have a very positive effect on development. Lind will likely spend at least another season in Kelowna (he's a late 1998 birthday), but the finished product could be very tantalizing for an NHL team.
In the Pipeline
Charlie McAvoy, D (Boston): Since leaving Boston University, McAvoy has two points in two games for AHL Providence. The puckmoving defenseman has pretty much shown the world that he can do it all this season, from the world junior gold to a leadership role in college. Now he's got his pro game off on the right step.
Mikey McLeod, C (New Jersey): Mississauga faced a stiff challenge from Ottawa in the first round of the OHL playoffs, so McLeod decided to end things in Game 6. The fast-as-hell first-rounder had points on every Steelheads goal in a 5-1 romp, with little bro Ryan McLeod (2018) tallying four assists.
Caleb Jones, D (Edmonton): The Portland Winterhawks upset Prince George in the first round of the WHL playoffs and Jones definitely played his part. The talented and edgy defenseman put up six points in six games for the Hawks, who withstood the Cougars' offensive barrage. Next up? Kelowna.
Aleksi Saarela, C (Carolina): Coming in from Lukko Rauma of Finland, Saarela needed no time adjusting to North America with the AHL's Charlotte Checkers. The skilled and elusive pivot cashed in six points in his first four games, earning himself the league's player of the week honorific.
Mark Jankowski, C (Calgary): We always knew Jankowski was going to be a long-term project for the Flames, but the former Providence Friar has hit his stride in the pros with Stockton. The AHL rookie of the month, Jankowski scorched March for 16 points in 13 games and that super-lanky frame ain't so lanky anymore at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds.
2017 Draft Stars
Antoine Morand, C - Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL): He's not huge, but Morand plays with a lot of smarts and determination, leading one scout to compare the Titan star to Tyson Jost. Morand had six points in Acadie-Bathurst's opening round sweep of Quebec and he can use his stick defensively as well.
Mikey Anderson, D - Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL): Recently named team MVP by his fellow players, Anderson is the type of blueliner you may not notice in a game - but that's a good thing, because he just doesn't make mistakes. The University of Minnesota-Duluth commit has still managed to lead his defense corps in scoring with 32 points in 52 games, however.
Michael DiPietro, G -Windsor Spitfires (OHL): He may not make it out of the first round, but DiPietro has been ever the equal to Tyler Parsons in Windsor's playoff series with London. Scouts love the enthusiasm and puckstopping ability that DiPietro brings to the crease and the fact he doesn't get beat high that much, considering his six-foot frame.
Erik Brannstrom, D - HV 71 (Swe.): His squad fell in the J-20 semifinal, but Brannstrom did his part with seven points in seven games. The smallish defenseman makes every shift count with his great offensive mind and mobility and it will be fun seeing what he can do at the upcoming world under-18s.
Jonah Gadjovich, LW - Owen Sound Attack (OHL): The Attack are on to the second round of the playoffs and still humming along. Gadjovich has been great all year, providing an unmoveable net-front presence and playing the game the right way en route to 74 points in 60 games. He has two goals in five playoff games so far.
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