Kalan Lind is in a unique situation among hockey players his age.
As a 16-year-old, the Shaunavon, Sask. native spent the entire abbreviated WHL season with the Red Deer Rebels.
Lind was drafted sixth overall by the Rebels in the 2020 WHL Prospects Draft and those players aren’t typically eligible to play in the WHL until the season after they’re drafted.
Without a minor hockey season, Lind and several players his age were granted an exemption to play in the league last season. He played 15 games for the Rebels, posting six points in 15 games. Still, he won’t turn 17 until January and he’s already expected to be a regular in the Rebels top-six forward group.
“I’m hoping to come into this year and work my way into a spot. Not take anything for granted,” said the humble Saskatchewan teen.
“Young player, hopefully, I get some good opportunities and take advantage of and show the coaches what I can do. Be a competitive player for our team and be one of the guys they need on this team. We have a lot of great players, so it’s always a battle on the ice, even throughout your team.”
It hasn’t taken him very long to make a strong impression on Rebels’ new bench boss Steve Konowalchuk.
“You see a pretty good skill level and some good speed for a young player. Real good compete for a young player. You see a guy that wants to be a hockey player and wants to do whatever it takes to learn and be an NHL hockey player,” Konowalchuk said near the end of training camp.
“Along with his talent, I think he gets better and better with his structure and system play, he seems to be picking up things we’re doing and not just relying on his talent. Very exciting for me to be able to coach a young player with that kind of drive.”
While that drive is something you can’t exactly measure, his minor hockey numbers sure do a lot of talking. He scored 68 goals and added 52 assists in just 27 games in his draft year with the Swift Current Broncos U15AA group.
He made the jump to the Saskatoon Contacts U18 program as a 15-year-old before the season was shut down and all he did was scored seven goals in six games, adding seven assists.
With the Rebels, he learned patience and how to react at a quicker pace.
“Being more patient, having more confidence. Last year, starting the year I had a lot of confidence coming from my Midget AAA year, went on a couple game drought and didn’t score,” he said.
“Scored against Lethbridge and built my confidence off there and tried to keep it up.”
For the Rebels coaching staff, helping him use that talent within a team structure is the next big step.
“He had a little bit of a taste last year here, but when you come from minor hockey, he was probably so dominant that he didn’t learn it,” Konowalchuk said.
“No different than some of the kids I coached in Seattle that were dominant, they have to learn how to play with their skill level, also in a team structure and that will make him even better.”
Not only does Lind bring skill, but an edge that doesn’t always come along with players who have a high talent level and Konowalchuk appreciates that edge.
“I love his compete and the way he gets into battles. The more elements of a game you can bring for a player, the better,” he said.
“If you just rely on skill, you better be real skilled. If you can bring skill and some grit, that gives you another element. He looks like the kind of kid that brings a lot of different elements as he continues to grow.”
If Lind takes a step forward, he should be a great complimentary piece to the forward mix for the Rebels this season. Along with veterans Ben King, Jayden Grubbe and Arshdeep Bains, with newcomers Liam Keeler and Kai Uchacz, Red Deer has an interesting mix of talent at the top end. Add in some experience with Jace Isley, Dallon Melin, Zak Smith, Ethan Rowland, Carter Anderson and Jhett Larson, the Rebels also have a different level of depth than the past few seasons.
“I think the speed that we’re able to create on the forecheck, with depth, not just with the top guys but with depth has been good. They’re starting to move the puck better and better and build some chemistry. So that’s nice,” Konowalchuk said.
“They’re a pretty competitive group as far as the battles go, so I’m happy there. And we’ve got some good things to show about guys going to the net, the reasons we scored some goals.”
Lind also sees the rest of the league potentially overlooking their group this season.
“We’ve got some new guys who are really going to help this team and contribute and take us deep into the playoffs,” he said. “That’s the guys we have here, they’re good players and we’ll just have to show the whole league what kind of team we are.”