2010 prospects: Kevin Lind

By Holly Gunning

Kevin Lind is very good defensively, especially one-on-one. He has the kind of one-on-one play that makes the NHL scouts in the stands literally take note. He’s physical to go with it, but it’s not his trademark. Top-notch skating skills help him stay in position. Lind has adequate puckhandling and offense, but is likely destined to be a defensive defenseman. He has six goals and five assists in 29 games for the USHL Chicago Steel this year and is +4.

The Steel, who are 13-16-5, need Lind to be better though.

"He’s been a slow starter," Steel head coach Steve Poapst said. "There’s things in his game that he does need to continue to improve on. He does a lot of good things and has the potential to be a good pro player in the future, but right now he’s still a kid and he’s still learning. But he’s going to be fine as he gets more experience and starts to develop that savvy in his game."

Asked to draw out what he meant by savvy, Poapst said, "Poise and confidence with the puck. Every time you have the puck on your stick, you’re not afraid to hand onto it and make that right play — that’s kind of lacking in his game right now. Every time when he goes and retreives the puck, he needs to make a good first pass out of the zone, and he’s not doing that or he’s not doing it with confidence. He needs to know where that right play is and make it tape to tape or make that play under pressure. That’s the part he needs to improve."

The son of an owner of a construction company who played college club hockey, Lind is one of three brothers who all play hockey. He grew up and still lives in the Chicago suburb of Homer Glen.

Committed to Notre Dame for next fall, Lind lives close enough that he’s been able to catch a couple of Notre Dame’s games, both in South Bend and at the Sears Centre for the Shillelagh Tournament.

Lind, who will be 18 at the end of March, represented the USA this past fall at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament and again at the World Junior A Challenge, where the team won the gold medal.

No. 32 among North American skaters on Central Scouting’s midterm rankings, Lind will be participating in the USHL All-Star Game next week in Indianapolis.

Hockey’s Future spoke to Lind recently after a game at his home Edge Ice Arena in suburban Chicago.

HF: Are you still 6’3, 200?
KL: I’m 6’3, 204 actually now.

HF: So you put on weight during the season?
KL: Yeah, we’ve done a good job with our off-ice workouts, trying to build muscle. It’s good weight, good muscle weight and it’s helping me perform out on the ice. I feel a lot better now.

HF: How do you feel like your season’s been going?
KL: Personally I think I’m having a good season. You always look for things you want to do better. Moving pucks quickly, footwork and stuff like that. As a team, we started off hot and before the (Christmas) break we dipped down a bit but we’ve made some moves with some trades and the team’s coming together. It’s a good group of guys.

HF: How has it been having the NTDP in the league this year, has it been a good move?
KL: Yeah, I think it’s good. They’re the best ’92′s and ’93′s and it’s only right for them to be able to show that they can play with older guys. The ’93′s may not be doing as well in the standings, but they’re a tough team and we played them close a couple times. The 92′s are just a powerhouse. It took them a little while to get going but they’re a really good team, so I think it was a great move by the USHL.

HF: Do you think it will help with recruiting?
KL: Yeah, definitely, especially maybe with import guys, saying we’re playing the US national team. Guys who were looking maybe more towards major junior. It’s the best amateur league in the country.

HF: Did the NTDP ever recruit you?
KL: Not too heavily. I wasn’t invited to the Top 40 camp by them, which was fine, everything worked out great. I was drafted in October 2008 by the Steel and immediately called up. Everything happens for a reason. I couldn’t be more glad that I was taken by the Steel, I get to live at home. It worked out well.

HF: How many miles is your house from the arena?
KL: It’s about 30 miles southwest. Coming to practice, I can get here in about a half hour, 35 minutes. But sometimes going home in Chicago traffic, it takes an hour. I love it, my family is at every home game. Some guys get homesick during the course of the year and it affects their game play, but I don’t have to worry about that. My mom and dad are there to make me a pre-game meal before every game and I get to see all my friends at school.

HF: Do you take guys home sometimes?
KL: Yeah, sometimes because it’s a homey atmosphere. Alex Krushelnyski is one of my closer friends and he’ll stay over. He really gets along with my parents.

HF: What do you think you might study when you get to Notre Dame?
KL: I’m not sure right now. I’ve been real interested since I was a sophomore in high school in not being a doctor, but some kind of medicine. I took an anatomy class and found that to be real interesting. Maybe sport therapy or something like that. Or, I’m interested in hockey agents. In case hockey doesn’t work out or after your career. Or maybe communications, broadcasting.

HF: You grew up a Blackhawks fan?
KL: I did. Yeah, my dad has had season tickets since before I was born. We used to have first row seats. He watched the 1991 Mario Lemieux Stanley Cup Final. Growing up I’ve been going to the game all the time and I remember being in the stands when there were 4000 people there and it was a brutal atmosphere. Now they brough some of the younger guys in with the youth movement and mix with the older guys and everyone’s packing the stands and they’re first in the Western Conference. Weekdays and Sunday games we go down there.

HF: Speaking of a ‘Hawk, you play with Jake Chelios — have you gotten to meet his dad?
KL: Not this year I haven’t. My basement is basically like a shrine of him. We used to go to the Chelios camp at Bridgeview. I have pictures of him holding me when I was a baby. We met him a couple time when we were younger. But he’s busy with the AHL and the Wolves right now so he doesn’t come around too much. It’s cool having stuff like that. Krush’s dad (Mike Krushelnyski) played too, won three cups with Wayne Gretzky, was on his line. We try not to talk too much about that because I’m sure they get it a lot from people. But Jake’s a great kid and his dad’s done unbelievable things for hockey itself and the city of Chicago definitely.

HF: Which NHL teams have you talked to yet?
KL: None personally right now. But all it takes is one team to like you. I try to not focus too much on the draft. It’s always in the back of your mind. One of the most important things that (Notre Dame) coach Jeff Jackson told me was ‘worry about this season. Worry about playing for the Steel, where you’re at now.’ I think that’s a big learning thing when you’re growing up. A draft especially can get inside your head and throw off your game. I try to not worry about it too much and play my game.

HF: If you were going to sell yourself to an NHL team, what would you say?
KL: I think I’m a good skater, for being 6’3, I think I move pretty well. Can make good passes. I feel I’m a good leader in the locker room. We have a young defense this year and I think I’ve stepped up into the role of leader of the defensemen. I think I’m pretty good with the puck. For being a big guy I think I can make some moves.

HF: Your coach talked about working on poise and being savvy. What does that mean to you?
KL: It’s big for defensemen. I have a tendency to panic and just wrap around the boards. Pose is why the defensemen in the NHL are in the NHL. They don’t panic with the puck. Picking your head up and looking for a good pass. It something I especially need to work on.

HF: I noticed in warm-ups it seems like you have so much energy that you can’t be contained by the drill. Is that a good way to put it?
KL: I don’t know, I like to just get going around at first. It gets you ready. You’re the first person to ever notice that (laughs). I’m a real superstitious person so I just do the same things all the time and that’s just what comes to me.

HF: What’s the greatest adversity you’ve faced as a player so far in your career?
KL: This is actually a good question because me and my parents talk about this all the time. When I was a squirt (age 11 or 12), I played for the Orland Park Vikings, a local travel team. Tryouts for the central state team — I didn’t make the team. And it was ridiculous, parents were coming up to my parents saying ‘he was head to toe above kids’ who were on the team. It really hurt me because when you’re a little kid you don’t understand why. It turned out that it wasn’t a good situation with what the coach was doing. It turned out I played on the gold team, was a leader at a young age and made the transition to AAA the following year. It was a great adversity for me at first, but I turned it into a good thing.